Covering or exactly interpreting a legend's hits is always tricky (in this context, Bob Marley). It is not an easy job at all. Sometimes, it could be a kind of sharp double-edged razor, where on one side you have to stay true with feels of the original version, but on the other side you also have to accommodate your own styles while try exploring new vibes freely as possible. Ugh, such a hard dilemma, isn't it? In other case, perhaps it will be a lot easier and more acceptable by Marley purist fans if the acts like Sublime, UB41, or even Stephen Marley that do such a tribute, they are still under the same tree - shade reggae tree.
Now the question is, how "No Woman No Cry", "Is This Love", "Could You Be Loved", etc., will sound like if the man behind that remake-project is Lee Ritenour? What do people expect? It depends who you ask. Any Bob Marley die hard fan might be like "... are you fuc
king kiddin' me? Lee Ritenour? That jazz guitarist? Oh Rasta, this is hopeless. He will ruin Marley's classic songs!". In the meantime, those who regard music more than just a narrow genre, and not looking at how high the legend status of a musician is, they will always warmly welcome this kind of musical endeavor. For them, it’s not a simply matter of how reggae the output is, or how close Ritenour’s version compared to the Marley’s original ones. Well, it's quite fair then, if A Twist of Marley
does deserve appreciation from this predetermine point of a view.
What makes this record mindblowing on one hand, and quite strange on the other hand - especially for those familiar with Marley's vibes - could be its completely new arrangement. All songs here are wholly reconstructed. It seems that A Twist of Marley
is done with only basing it on the original songs' crude vibes or feels as its main foundation. Such an impression will come to anyone's mind even in first listen. However, there is one main aspect why this album deserves to be hailed within reason; its rich and diverse musical ventures. Here, Lee Ritenour is just a great interpreter of Bob Marley's works. He dug, explored, improvised, and tried all kind of possibilities so as to have new vibes - something different from the original twist. True, this is not a reggae record, by all means. You will never find typical staccato and downstroke strumming of guitar domination along with significant repetitive riffs of bass as you usually can get in any Bob Marley & The Wailers stuff. This 63-minute album offers smooth feels of jazz (soft and easy listening ones, of course), dynamic and modern atmosphere of rhythm and blues, distinctive and tribal vibes of African percussions, and also soulful lead singers. One thing more, admittedly, these peculiarly involvement of capable singers - from Maxi Priest to Lisa Fischer to Will Downing and few others - however, have made almost all songs memorable, catchy yet classy.
By inviting skilled session-players (side-man musicians) such as pianist Dave Grusin, percussionist and vocalist Richard Bona, tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker and Dan Higgins, keyboardist and programmer Jochem van der Saag, and many others to join forces, Lee Ritenour, once again, has proven his musicality caliber. He and his great companions finally succeed to decode Bob Marley's reggae into contemporary jazz perspective. They seem really understand how to honor the legend with utmost sense of their own way and style. As ever said before, this is not about how close this tribute album is if compared to the original tunes, but how a musician interprets and appreciates his fellow-musician's works. That is all.
As conclusion, A Twist of Marley
is almost perfect tribute album. The only flaw perhaps it is that there is no a lot of spaces for Lee Ritenour himself to show off his virtuosity. But, by considering there are more than 20 musicians that are involved in this project, so, such a weakness is tolerable and understandable. In addition, this album is pretty different from Lee’s notable previous releases which are more instrumental minded - typical Captain Fingers' twist. Lastly, this album is highly recommended to any music lover in general, and those are familiar with Bob Marley music they must hear this, feel its difference, and at the same time feel Marley’s twist, too.