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Greg Reitan: Daybreak

Dan McClenaghan By

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Greg Reitan has, since 1995, carved out a career as an award-winning composer for television and film. It wasn't until 2009, however, that the Los Angeles-based pianist released his first jazz CD, one of the top piano trio recordings of the year, Some Other Time (Sunnyside Records). Reitan followed up this excellent debut with another top-level outing, Antibes (Sunnyside Records, 2010), and now he adds Daybreak, again using the trio format, and again with outstanding results.

There's something to be said for sticking for with the same record label, as Bill Evan' tenure at Riverside Records suggests and Thelonious Monk's stint on Riverside and then Columbia Records also prove. The iconic pianists were able to establish game plans, their artistic visions allowed to unfold. Daybreak employs the same game plan as that of his freshman and sophomore outings: collect some time-tested standards featuring refined, beautiful melodies; throw in something unexpected; and add some of the leader's own engaging tunes.

Reitan opens with his own brief title track, a smooth-flowing, sunny sparkle of music that puts the pianist's crisp touch on display before the set segues into Michel Legrand's wistful and ever-lovely "Once Upon a Summertime." The trio dynamic is exquisite, as it was on Reitan's previous two CDs, with drummer Dean Koba a superb colorist who propels the music, and bassist Jack Daro settling into an understated, serve-the-music mode with uncommon aplomb.

Monk's "Monk's Mood" gets a straight treatment, a bit lusher than any of Monk's takes on the tune. It's followed up by a couple of melodically distinctive and elegant Reitan originals, "Five Four," and "The Bells of Soledad." Perhaps Reitan's best composition to date, "The Bells" was inspired by a visit to Nuestra Senora de la Soladad Mission in Monterey County, California, and begins with a solo piano section and brooding mood that lightens and builds momentum as Daro and Koba join in.

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter's "Toy Tune" is given and ebullient and vivacious treatment, and pianist/composer Billy Strayhorn's classic "Chelsea Bridge" goes inward. Reitan's "Iridescence" has the jump and joy of one of pianist Vince Guaraldi's tunes, leading into the familiar "Blue and Green," from trumpeter Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia Records, 1959). Reitan feels his way into the tune, and then takes it—oddly but nicely—into what sounds like boogie-woogie land before slipping back to a reverent and reflective mood.

The set closes out with Vince Guaraldi's "The Great Pumpkin Waltz," from the Charlie Brown/Peanuts songbook, followed by a gorgeous take on trombonist J.J. Johnson's "Lament," making it three impeccable piano trio CDs in a row for Reitan and his trio.

Track Listing: Daybreak; Once Upon a Summertime; Monk's Mood; Five Four; The Bells of Soledad; Toy Tune; Chelsea Bridge; Iridescence; Blue in Green; The Great Pumpkin Waltz; Lament.

Personnel: Greg Reitan: piano; Jack Daro: bass; Dean Koba: drums.

Title: Daybreak | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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