The modern jazz pianist not only has to master the voluminous contributions of the idiom s giants: He must also be conversant with every musical tradition that has crossed the eighty-eight keys. Sunnyside has more than any other label in this generation debuted a number of piano virtuosos, from Kirk Lightsey and Armen Donelian, to Aaron Goldberg. And now, the multi-talented and multi-dimensional Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based pianist/film composer Greg Reitan unveils his astonishing debut CD, Some Other Time; an expansive twelve track trio recording featuring Reitan s compositions, standards by Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, and jazz numbers by Pat Metheny, Bill Evans, Vince Guaraldi, and John Coltrane.
One of my main goals with Some Other Time was to put together an album that had a kind of overall lyrical elegance to it, he says.
Joining Reitan on his elegant, yet swinging journey, are his long-time bandmates. My trio on this recording is an important contributor to the music, he says. Bassist Jack Daro, drummer Dean Koba and I met while in college at the University of Southern California music school. We have performed together on and off for the past 10 years. Because of our relatively long association, we have developed a unique and sympathetic rapport that is constantly evolving. This has allowed us to explore a certain depth in the music.
Indeed, the stylistic depth on this CD offers a good summary of modern and diverse musical styles. And it clearly highlights Reitan s seemingly effortless ability to play those styles, while fully expressing himself in his own pianistic voice, buoyed by a sensitive combo that equally channels the dynamic range of the trio recordings of Ahmad Jamal, Keith Jarrett, and Bill Evans. The Evans imprint manifests itself throughout the CD, with a tasteful, mid-tempo rendition of Cole Porter s All of You, a longing and lyrical look at the title track, written by Leonard Bernstein and delivered with the evocative overtones of Evans masterpiece, Peace Piece, and the Chopin-colored, haunting Evans work, Time Remembered. Other examples of Reitan s interpretational alchemy include his bouncing take on the Beatles Dear Prudence, which moves with an infectious Vince Guaraldi meets Ramsey Lewis groove, contrasted by the heartland swing on Pat Metheny s Unquity Road, and Reitan s waltzy, interactive version of John Coltrane s Giant Steps. The leader s own compelling compositions from the wonderful Joy s Song to the anthemic Northern Windows round out this delightful and dancing disc.
A musician of Gregory Rhodes Reitan s caliber must have a complete and comprehensive musical education to draw from to create such a stylistically broad recording. Born on May 30, 1973 in Seattle, WA, Reitan s interests in music began at the age of ten. I was fortunate to study with a number of great musicians, he says, [including] pianists Joni Metcalf, Dave Peck and composer/drummer Jerry Granelli. Summers were spent at the Bud Shank Jazz Workshop at Port Townsend, WA, where I studied composition and arranging John Clayton and pianist Hal Galper. He won two scholarships to Berklee College of Music, and the Kreielsheimer Scholarship at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.
He relocated to Los Angeles in 1991, attended the University of Southern California s Thornton School of Music as a Herb Alpert Merit and Dean s Scholar. Reitan was a finalist in the John Coltrane Competition, a finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, and finished second in the 1996 Hennessy Cognac Jazz Search in New York.
Pianists in their debut recordings rarely sound as poised and centered and fully formed as Greg Reitan . He waited until he was 35 to make Some Other Time, and he is a thoroughly schooled musician with an extensive resume as a composer for film and television. Still, it is impressive that every track here postulates a different challenging concept and executes it, seemingly without breaking a sweat.
Reitan plays done-to-death Cole Porter tunes with fresh, glistening elegance ("All of You"), uncovers and freely decorates little-known gems (Vince Guaraldi's "Star Song"), hits a playfully nasty funk groove on a Beatles song ("Dear Prudence"), and makes "Giant Steps" sound like a blocky waltz. He also writes intelligent songs of his own. The best is a hovering, ambivalent ballad, "The Wayfarer."
Reitan's strengths are his clarity and his sensitive, precise touch. Pianists with surfaces this polished sometimes lack depth. Not Reitan. His "Time Remembered" is one of the most affecting renderings of that song's emotion since its composer, Bill Evans, stopped playing it. The title track also alludes to Evans because its gentle two-chord vamp melds Leonard Bernstein's composition with Evans' "Peace Piece," and turns "Some Other Time" into a dead slow, fervent ritual.
- Thomas Conrad --JazzTimes, March 2009
The notes he strikes ebony and ivory stay interminably in the memory, hanging life-like and sensuously, fully laden on the canopy that crowns the mind's mind. Ideas abound and spring forth even down the choruses of well-worn standards and they sparkle end-to-end on Cole Porter's "All of You," Guaraldi's "Star Song," and on Bernstein's "Some Other Time," the title song, which is also an ironic harking back to a future-past and the seeming infinity of the life of the song's music itself. This, and the fact that the idioms of the melodies and their exquisite hidden phrases are caressed and coaxed out of each song by Greg Reitan on his debut outing all make Some Other Time a spectacular start to a career much anticipated.
Reitan channels the legendary grace and lyricism of Bill Evans and the endless harmonic flow of Keith Jarrett in a puckish voice redolent with almost Byzantine decor arranged in flowing sonic necklaces. It would appear that all sound is beautiful, whether it be 'sung' ponderously, as in the endearing sketch of "The Wayfarer," the crystalline sonority of "Northern Windows," or in the dazzling mystery of "Star Song." And despite the deliberate and rarified virtuosity that abounds throughout the record, Reitan remains refreshingly down-to-earth, not only in a humorous way, but also in his ability to coax and stir the music's notes into a dance appropriate to mood and swing.
Coltrane's "Giant Steps," for instance is slowed down considerably at the start, and features a spectacular improvised opening in waltz-time before a perfunctory unison trio statement before launching into a blistering melodic attack. Then the song dances its way into a waltz, after superb polyrhythmic bass and the soft splashes of cymbals igniting rhythmic figures around the whispering interlude on tom and snare. Even on the otherwise still life of "Time Remembered," there is a shuffle of dancing feet as well. And of course Pat Metheny's "Unquity Road," though not a nod to Metheny, Pastorius and Moses, does pay tribute by sparkling just a brightly as the original.
A pianist of Reitan's mature genius is rare and he rises to the challenge of delivering a voice in a trio setting set by predecessors of the mythic quality of Paul Bley, Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. It helps, of course, to have a small and powerful cohort featuring Jack Daro, whose fingers seem to be on fire every time he strokes the strings of the bass and also Dean Koba, who it appears ravishes the hides of the drums just as much as he caresses them and other brass fare around his traps. This is a record that gives new meaning to the words "lyrical beauty."
- Raul d'Gama Rose --AllAboutJazz.com, Feb. 12, 2009