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Music Review

Lyle Ritz, No Frills, Flea Market Music


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For his new album, No Frills, ‘ukulele legend Lyle Ritz didn’t bother with a fancy studio. He recorded in his guest room on a laptop, using Garageband, an audio program now being packaged free with new Apple computers. Talk about no frills.

This is far from an amateur experiment, though—Ritz’s years of experience give this project a polish that belies its humble setting. The mood here is relaxed, down-tempo, with Ritz retooling jazz standards in the subtly swinging ‘ukulele idiom he pioneered back in the ’50s. “No Moon at All” and “Blue Monk” sound as if they were written for ‘uke.

The album does sometimes come across as slightly austere; one misses the accompaniments—the frills—that enlivened Ritz’s classic 1957 debut, How About Uke?: Don Shelton’s nimble flute, Gene Estes’ crackling drum work. And since Ritz handles both ‘ukulele and bass duties, on separate takes, there’s not much improvisational play between the two instruments.

But these are small bones to pick—Ritz’s chops remain as sharp as ever, and his finely calibrated takes on jazz standards are well worth listening to.

BOTTOM LINE:
Less is more. Ritz proves you don’t need studio wizardry or lightning-fast fingerwork to craft a satisfying collection of instrumental swingers.

“No Moon At All”
“Blue Monk”

No Frills, Flea Market Music
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