Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 6, No. 6, 2007

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
Phil Nixon
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
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Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney

Montreal Jazz Festival 2006 EMI Classics







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: KURT ROSENWINKEL

There were equal amounts of anticipation and foreboding in the smoke-free air when Kurt Rosenwinkel mounted the stage at the Spectrum for the 2007 Montreal Jazz Festival. Would he live up to the highest praises recently afforded by guitar icons John Scofield and Pat Metheny?

From the opening riffs, Rosenwinkel vanquished all doubts that he was under the influence of lack of self-confidence. His unforced ease on stage and equipoise on his instrument made it easy for the audience to get on board for what turned out to be a surprising and sometimes inspiring voyage. Surprising in that Rosenwinkel, not yet 40, felt no compunction to demonstrate his technical prowess that was nonetheless in quiet evidence, and that he was able to induce occasional goose bumps in a genre that has been accused of having milked itself dry as far back as the early 1980s. And then there was Rosenwinkel’s sound, by all accounts too close for comfort to Metheny’s, which should have worked again him, but it didn’t because his signature ascents and descents were of the kind that linger deliciously in the post-concert mind.

In especially his newer compositions, several of them from his 2005 release, Deep Song, Rosenwinkel continues to be excited by the idea of the guitar and sax playing together note for note, a synchronicity whose effects are twofold: the emergent sound -- enriched to the point where it affects physically -- feels good, and not, as one might expect, weighty and intrusive; and when the sax bows out the listener is delivered or released into a kind of etherscape that induces varying degrees of light headedness instead of registering as a mere dynamic effect. Rosenwinkel’s partner in this unusual sound pairing, saxophonist Mark Turner, hits and shapes all the right notes whether the guitarist is playing singletons or his patented chordal progressions.

Adding to this, Rosenwinkel, more than any guitarist I can think of, is attracted to the effects produced by lateral modulation. Which is say, when going from A and back to A, he’ll take a very unconventional, sidereal route, which allows for shifts into keys that would normally be excluded. This results in a very measured build up where gratification is delayed and the unsuspecting listener may find himself temporarily stranded or disoriented. Only when the extended sequence returns to its origins can the protracted development be appreciated for its deliberateness and daring, for if the modulation isn’t underpinned by sincerity of feeling, the shifts into unconventional keys will ring hollow.

The idea of lateral modulation dates back to Richard Wagner (1813-1883), who, in his operas, gave himself hours to create the desired effect. But the concept had to wait for its purest expression for the operas and tone poems of Richard Strauss (1864-1949), who, unlike Wagner, availed himself of more transitional intervals, many of which were key changes. It goes without saying that, in the context of jazz, modulating laterally represents a new way of thinking about music in a genre that has been stuck in compositional nowhere land for far too long. If Rosenwinkel isn’t destined to be a saviour, he is C-major proof that any genre worth its string section is inexhaustible in the hands of its most inventive practitioners.

Kurt Rosenwinkel, by staying true to his temperment, makes the case that it’s not how far out and fast you are that lasts, but having something to say and saying it honestly and engagingly. By daring to take giant Steps Head, Rosenwinkel, in his Montreal concert, satisfied listeners with memorably long lines that featured a fluidity that belied the music’s unexpected twists and turns. Unlike guitarists who default to clichés when imagination is in short supply, Rosenwinkel’s narrative climaxes are not a function of how high up on the neck of the guitar he can play: his lyricism and melodies are strong, his concepts stronger, which are the outcomes of the God-given ability to translate what is deeply felt into the language of music, which is an essential attribute of what we commonly refer to as style.

Listen to Kurt and Mark Turner perform “Zhivago” HERE.


John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
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