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Greg Reitan: West 60th (Sunnyside)

A review of the fifth album from the Los Angeles-based pianist

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Greg Reitan, West 60th
The cover of West 60th by Greg Reitan

Forty-nine-year-old Los Angeles-based pianist Greg Reitan possesses blazing chops, which are put to excellent purpose on his fifth CD. Titled for inspiration received after his trio performed at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle (closest entrance on West 60th Street), the release builds upon Reitan’s previous CDs (Daybreak, Post No Bills, Some Other Time, Antibes), slightly extending their reach but cleaving close to form.

It would be easy to write that Reitan is a disciple of the Evans/Zeitlin/Jarrett school of phrasing and improvisation, but he’s more complex than that easy tag. His compositions are thoughtful yet never mawkish, while his prodigious technique takes his longtime trio of bassist Jack Daro and drummer Dean Koba down unexpected paths. The trio plays as a seasoned unit, a rare thing in any jazz environment.

The bubbling-stream opener “Hindemith,” loosely based on the work of the German composer, soars between time signatures and time feels, a perfect workout for the kinetic trio. Here and throughout West 60th, Reitan’s melodic flurries are both exciting and so logical that they almost sound written; it’s easy to get lost in his technical gifts. Bobby Hutcherson’s ballad “When You Are Near” combines fragility with a sense of mourning. “Momentum” recalls the fiery melodies of Chick Corea but turned down a notch, to no less spectacular effect. “Lines” begins in dance-like drum corps mode before flying straight ahead, in blistering fashion. “Luminosity” is graceful and haunting, while “Man Overboard” again applies the heat, the trio nailing every change and accent with cool composure.

West 60th is tailor-made for live performance, be it at Dizzy’s or your nearest bar-cum-musical salon.

Preview, buy or download West 60th on Amazon!

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Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.