Peter Leitch: Red Zone (1985) Van Gelder!

Selection: Red Zone

. . .


Ray Drummond (bass) Marvin “Smitty” Smith (drums) Peter Leitch (guitar) Kirk Lightsey (piano). Recorded digitally November 16, 1985 at Van Gelder Recording Studio, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Canadian-born guitarist Peter Leitch bio from his own site:

“Peter Leitch is a New York Based jazz guitarist and composer. He performs in such popular rooms as Sweet Basil, Sweet Rhythm, Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, The Blue Note, Bradley’s, Zinno, Visiones and Birdland and has placed several times in the DownBeat International Jazz Critics Poll. He has been profiled in numerous magazine articles.

A tour favorite, Peter and his groups have appeared at festivals and clubs in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. Versatile in a broad range of jazz artistry, he has worked/recorded with some of his profession’s greatest performers: Oscar Peterson, Ron Carter, Milt Jackson, Woody Shaw, Pepper Adams, Jaki Byard, Jack McDuff, Kenny Wheeler, Al Grey, and John Hicks.”

Unfortunately Peter has now stopped playing due to health issues.

Reservoir have published eight Leitch albums, sadly almost all only on CD, as a result of launching the label at the time of the great digital revolution.

For any guitarists/ equipment fans out there:

PL: “My main guitar is an Atilla Zoller model Hofner, built in the 1970s. I bought this from Atilla himself in 1993. I also have a Ramirez nylon string guitar, and an old 1950s ES 175. I have several Polytone mini brute amplifiers.”


Compositions by Monk and Wayne Shorter on guitar? Digitally recorded and mastered by Van Gelder on vinyl? Veteran jazz players, wearing dark glasses in the dark?  Leitch was a name entirely unfamiliar to me, but a provenance like this nevertheless piqued my interest. Horn-based style, be-bop guitarist of the “soft touch school” -” those who caress the instrument and who seem to gently coach a sound from it rather than the percussively pluck it and pick it

Hearing the tune “Speak No Evil”, Shorter’s sour tone replaced by soft guitar notes and chordal melody is something of a revelation. The contours of the melody are uncannily the same, but texturally quite different. The same happens with the Monk composition. It’s an audacious idea, and it works surprisingly well, though in the end I settled for the original Leitch title composition Red Zone as the selection.

Spending the greater portion of listening time with horn-based quartets, it takes a little while to attune your ear to the same classic jazz playbook with a guitar-based quartet, but Leitch’s undoubted empathy with the music, and rhythmic swing makes for a refreshing new pair of ears.

Vinyl: Reservoir Music  RSR 103

Van Gelder digital recording (1985), mastered by Van Gelder, and released in 1987.

Who are Reservoir Music?

Pearl St. Kingston, NY. Founded in 1987 , aiming to record the best musicians in Jazz, including personal favorites Nick Brignola, Kenny Barron, Peter Leitch, John Hicks, and Steve Kuhn, to name a few of the leaders and sidemen. We plan to keep our future vibrant and innovative by using the best available personnel,and with quality production and sound.” Kicking off with Van Gelder certainly fits that mission.

It claims digital recording, though the actual equipment isn’t specified, and it doesn’t sound at all bad, unlike another Van Gelder Digital I picked up the other day, from around the same period, “Mastered by Van Gelder” and possibly the worst sounding record I own. To be fair I guess Rudy was still feeling his way into the new technology. Rudy knew what worked, in analog. I guess he struggling with the new technology to achieve something at least the equal of what he could already produce. The tyranny of progress.

Collector’s Corner: away from home (Part Two – Conclusion)

Bah humbug, my list of twelve wants from the fabulous French Collection turned up just two lesser titles, sort of a nothingburger. Well, not exactly nothing, a French pressed Muse album, and an Orpheum Riverside second issue, for small change.  Oh well, c’est la vie. It was not meant to be.

On a more cheerful note a modest  Ebay snipe yielded dividend, Postie calling, and something to look forward to.

2 thoughts on “Peter Leitch: Red Zone (1985) Van Gelder!

  1. what a bummer of an end to the french collection story! oh well. that’s how they usually go for me, too. ha.

  2. If you are looking for more Peter Leitch,there are 3 more records that I can recommend:
    Exhilaration on Uptown UP 27.24
    PL Trio, On a misty night Cris Cross Jazz 1026
    PL Quintet/Sextet Portraits and Dedications Criss Cross Jazz 1039 ( with Bobby Watson and Jed Levy)


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