Ronnie Rathers
"Nut'n but a Groove"

Nut'n but a Groove

Review by Brad Walseth

His album title is quite misleading as there is certainly more to the music than simple grooving. Jazz guitarist Ronnie Rathers is a top-call Las Vegas musician whose work has included backing many famous musicians and comedians. His melodic playing style is clearly derived from the Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Earl Klugh and Grant Green school, and it is obvious he has learned from these guitar masters, as well as R&B songwriters like Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway extremely well. His octave riffs are rigorous yet fluid and his songwriting is both mature as well as addictive.

Backed by a talented group of singers and musicians including Steven and Brenda Leonard Cowart on vocals, and Cliff “The Juice” Workman and Adam Shendel, Rathers has produced a fine recording that features his guitar and vocals, while recalling the sounds of ’70s-style jazz and R&B. The title track opens up and could easily be mistaken for an unreleased song from George Benson’s glory years. “Nut n’ but a Groove” is a feisty and enjoyable composition and an excellent album opener. The upbeat “What Are You Thinking?” shows Rather’s pop side, with his smooth vocals augmenting his fine fretwork (again not unlike Benson). Meanwhile, “Mr. Allen” moves things into a more traditional jazz/blues vein with wonderful results. Throughout, the guitarist displays some deliciously impressive chops that call out for wider recognition for this Las Vegas gem.

Linwood Bell’s “Say You’ll Be Mine” is a slinky groover with some nice keyboard work adding to the spicy recipe. Rathers again plays rings around most guitarists and shows himself again to be a most worthy adherent of the George Benson/Wes Montgomery method. Some surprising strings make an appearance on the lovely ballad “End of My Rainbow,” while “To Who You Are (That Is)” showcases more of Rather’s daunting octave riffing, and is virtually guaranteed to keep the listener smiling throughout.

“Observing Sky” dances along in cut time with Rathers burning up his strings over the top, while the album ends with the delightful instrumental “Rhythm Babies,” dedicated to his children, If you are a fan of George Benson’s and Wes Montgomery’s octave guitar sound and smooth soulful jazz, you will definitely want to give Ronnie Rathers a listen.

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Contact Brad Walseth and JazzChicago.net at bwalseth60@aol.com

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