Greg Reitan Class of 1996
At Home With His Music
Film composer, jazz pianist and recording artist Greg Reitan ’96 makes his living doing what he loves - writing and performing music. But Reitan is also an architecture buff, and he gets to live in his dream house - the prototype Concept 2 modular home designed in 1968 by California modernist architect J. Lamont Langworthy.
Remarkably, Reitan has found a way to blend his two passions, turning the historic prefab into an acoustically sublime recording studio where his jazz trio has produced three successful albums for Sunnyside Records.
It began serendipitously, 13 years ago.
“My wife and I were looking for a house,” says Reitan, who is married to urban planning graduate Meredith Drake MPL ’04, PhD ’10, USC’s assistant dean of graduate fellowships. “This had been listed as an artist’s retreat in Pasadena. So we just decided to go take a look. And we fell in love.”
It wasn’t until Reitan moved his piano into the living room that the house’s recording potential became evident. The rough-sawn redwood interior reverberates minimally, providing an acoustic warmth perfect for performing intimate live jazz.
Last year, Reitan’s trio - made up of Reitan and fellow USC Thornton School of Music graduates Jack Daro MM ’99 (bass) and Dean Koba MM ’93 (drums) - recorded their third album, Daybreak, in the house. A mix of new music by Reitan and reinterpreted standards, the album is winning critical praise. The trio’s previous two albums, Antibes (2010) and Some Other Time (2009), also were recorded in Reitan’s home, as will be their next project, for release later this year.
The one-bedroom house consists of two 12- by 40-foot prefabricated modules, joined down the middle by a wooden truss. “When we’re recording, it’s a fairly simple setup,” Reitan says. “We use the natural acoustics of the house. We don’t multitrack. There’s no mixing stage involved. The performance we record is it. It’s very real.”
A Seattle native, Reitan came to USC in 1991 as a jazz-performance major. He later switched to com- position, studying with Stephen Hartke, Frank Ticheli and Erica Muhl. In his senior year, he completed a graduate certificate in film scoring under the tutelage of Elmer Bernstein and David Raksin.
When not recording or touring with his trio, Reitan is a successful film composer whose credits include Bark! (2002), which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and Dumbarton Bridge (1999), winner of the grand prize for best score at the Rhode Island Film Festival. He also owns a music production company, writing cues for news and sports programs on MSNBC and CNN.
Incidentally, Langworthy is still designing homes; his firm is based in northern California. In 2006, a retrospective of his work was featured at the Laguna Art Museum, where Reitan met and struck up a friendship with the architect. Turns out they have a lot in common. “He’s a really big jazz fan,” Reitan says. “When he lived in Laguna in the early ’60s, Lamont was very heavily tied into the art and music scene.”