Lyle Ritz is a ukulele player who shouldn’t need an introduction to any self respecting uke player indeed to many he is the Father of ukulele jazz.
“No Frills” (2005) is jazz stripped down to it’s very soul focusing on Ritz’s two main instruments… ukulele and bass. It’s a fresh yet relaxed approach to a number arrangements of jazz standards and is the first time the two sides of his talent are brought together one album.
You’d think a man of Ritz’s experience and connections would take him to a modern boutique studio to create this masterpiece. It’s therefore deeply intriguing to discover this album was recorded at home by Ritz using a Mac laptop and GarageBand…
“Hardly anybody knew how to operate GarageBand, how to deal with it, so I had to fool with it a couple of months.”
(NPR interview, 2007)
And despite being a highly accomplished jazz bass player the sound you hear is actually a bass synthesizer, used by Ritz so he could concentrate on the ukulele. I find that particularly fascinating especially as it has no detrimental effect on finished product. It is perhaps a little disappointing that his bass playing talents are not showcased here in the same way, however the bass lines are so expertly programmed you cannot help but admire them all the same.
I cannot single out any particular song here, the album is a work in it’s entirety in the traditional sense. “No Fills” is one of the most relaxing albums I own and I thoroughly recommend it to uke players and jazz fans alike. I’ll leave with some wise words from the master in his 2007 interview with NPR…
“I’m a firm believer and exponent of the art of noodling,” Ritz says. “You don’t necessarily have to have a goal in mind, you don’t have to have a specific phrase or song that you’re working on, but you just fool with it and things happen. And I call the result the fruit of the noodle.”
(NPR interview, 2007)
“No Frills” by Lyle Ritz can be easily found on CD or download at your favourite online music store or indeed on most music streaming websites. To get you in the mood to spend your hard earned pennies check out Satin Doll on this unofficial YouTube stream. If you are interested in reading the NPR interview with Lyle Ritz you’ll find it here.