Kurt Rosenwinkel: Jazz Guitar Alchemist



  • Producer: Josh Jackson
  • Engineer: Leszek Wojcik
Kurt Rosenwinkel (300)

Kurt Rosenwinkel. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist

When major record companies start hemorrhaging money, the first budget cuts slice the smallest part of the pie — a label's jazz roster. That sounds harsh, but it's often true. However, what could amount to a negative impact on the tiny jazz ecosystem has been a boon to established artists such as guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.

"It's very useful to be on a major label to gain an audience for your music," Rosenwinkel says. "But now I have an audience, so I can sell the CD. I can make it myself and sell it directly to my fans."

In 2006, Rosenwinkel brought his quintet to the Village Vanguard, New York's legendary jazz club. The results of that week-long engagement are now part of The Remedy, a two-disc set of live recordings recently released on the ArtistShare label. The collection features six Rosenwinkel originals, the shortest of them clocking in at just under 12 minutes.

"I feel very differently playing music live," he says. "It's a unique state of mind. You're sharing the experience in an actual space with the people in real time. And you feed off that. You can go high together."

That euphoric feeling is the very essence of playing or listening to live jazz. It's also a key inspiration for the album title. "I think music is a source of strength," Rosenwinkel says. "Everybody really leans on music to feed their soul, especially in times of sadness or melancholy. In that sense, music is the remedy."

Rosenwinkel brought his guitar to the studio to perform three songs. There's just one standard in the bunch — Thelonious Monk's "Reflections." In this unadorned solo setting, you can really get close to the advanced harmonic ideas that make Rosenwinkel, like Monk, a star architect of the jazz world. He calls "A Minor" "a little ditty that I like to play when I'm by myself. I like to just play the melody over and over. It's just a simple song." "Untitled Improvisation" speaks for itself as an off-the-cuff creation.

Listen to these solo performances. Consider them your remedial improvisation course. If music is the remedy, then guitarist Rosenwinkel is the alchemist.

Originally recorded March 12, 2008.

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