12 major recordings under his belt and at least 30 more as special
guest or sideman, we have come to know what to expect from the
playbook of Kurt Rosenwinkel, one of jazz’s most influential
guitarists during the past 20 years. He has effectively continued
the line of musical thought and development pioneered by Pat Metheny.
Like the latter, Rosenwinkel’s undeniable gifts and versatility
(he is a quick learner) have allowed him to partner with many
of today’s elite musicians, and to familiarize himself with
the many cross-currents of jazz. And like Metheny, referring to
his ground-breaking vocal period that begins with Offramp
and continues into Still Life, there was a considerable
delay between his initial introduction to the Brazilian interval,
and getting down to the hard work of composing in that ever so
the occasion of his 2017 Montreal
International Jazz Festival concert
at l’Astral, the last thing I expected was an evening of
original compositions inspired by the rhythms and sea breezes
Cocktails and satellites
She likes to watch the waves at night
Till the morning bright (gamache/lewis)
was an homage to and highly personal take on a music that is --
tango notwithstanding -- Latin America’s greatest musical
export. From the very first moments of the concert, it became
clear that Rosenwinkel would single-handedly evolve the genre.
That said, it should be mentioned right off the top that if you
had come for the pure, generic Brazilian Songbook, you would have
left somewhat disappointed, much like flamenco purists, in the
tradition of Manitas de Plata and Sabicus, are invariably let
down by the hybrid flamenco of Jesse Cook and Ottmar Liebert.
Rosenwinkel’s Caipi required ten years in the making.
It represents a radical departure from anything he’s ever
done. Whether he has self-consciously reinvented himself or perspicaciously
decided that composition is ultimately more rewarding (challenging)
than improvisation is beside the point if every composer, more
than anything else, wants his music to survive the test of time.
unapologetically, dedicates itself to song, to the art of composition,
with only the smallest emphasis on improvisation – which
in the past has been Rosenwinkel’s stock in trade. What
distinguishes the compositions are the manner in which they evolve,
modulate: the sublime almost imperceptible shifts are lateral
– think of the ghostly meeting of sky and sea in a Copacabana
dawn. Rosenwinkel has listened to the tone poems of Strauss and
has watched the Zen master pass through wall like light through
mist. The music’s lateral transitions, accompanied by a
most unlikely combination of commonplace voices that somehow speak
to the transcendental, take Brazilian music to a new place. As
such, Caipi is its own precedent and it may very well
turn out to be the last man standing when Kurt Rosenwinkel’s
story is finally told.
are provocatively original and yet familiar. Backed up by second
guitarist/singer Pedro Martins and the inventively empathetic
Olivia Trummel on the ivories, both solo musicians in their own
right, Rosenwinkel has managed to create an ambience that will
appeal first to Brazilians for whom sand and samba no longer answer
to native angst and ennui, and to disaffected Millenials everywhere
caught between the to-have and to-have-not dichotomy and the disembodied
escapist fare offered by the ever expanding digital universe.
asks can you catch the wave, the vibe and leave the turmoil and
roiling behind for as long as the songs play and ask to be played
again and again: Caipi’s light as a feather feel
makes the case that gravity is powerless against the pull of music.
Rosenwinkel has taken the earthy, skin-tingling Ipanema sound
and turned it into the stuff of levitation, or, (with a nod to
The Michael of Hedges), arials without boundaries.
is almost beside the point and throughout Caipi it is
curiously underwhelming. Rosenwinkel retains his patent, highly
synthesized metallic sound and stays the course. Since the compositions
are so strong, they deserve equally strong solos, the kind we
associate with Santana, whose hummable lead guitar improvs have
become compositions in their own right. Rosenwinkel shouldn’t
allow himself to be hamstrung by the unspoken tyranny that it
is infra dig, beneath the dignity of the improviser to
repeat a sequence of notes from one night to the next. So until
this is resolved, Caipi should be regarded as a major
accomplishment in progress, with the success of the follow up
very dependent on Rosenwinkel being able to summon the necessary
humility that ensures the further refining and evolving of the
always a risk when an established, highly reputed musician decides
to go where he has never gone before. Rosenwinkel deserves full
marks for daring to create outside his comfort zone, and -- categories
be damned -- daring to be himself in meticulously composed music
that can be regarded as a radiant criticism of everything he’s
done in the past.
ended with ecstatic disKurteous, rip-tide applause.