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May 2008

Kurt Rosenwinkel
The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard
ArtistShare

Easily the most original guitar voice of the decade, Kurt Rosenwinkel continues his ever-upward climb with this brilliant live outing, recorded in January of 2006 during a weeklong engagement at the hallowed Village Vanguard. His seventh as a leader and debut for the fiercely independent and visionary ArtistShare label, The Remedy once again pairs Rosenwinkel on the frontline with his longtime partner, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, who at this point is to Kurt as Bird was to Diz (“the other half of my heartbeat”). Their intricate intervallic leaping and impossibly tight unison lines on rollercoaster numbers like “Chords” and “Flute” are executed with breathtaking precision and an eye toward melodicism. Pianist Aaron Goldberg, a singular soloist himself, is the harmonic provocateur and contrapuntal foil throughout while bassist Joe Martin (whose working relationship with Rosenwinkel goes back to 1999’s Intuit) provides a minimalist low-end anchor. The remarkable drummer Eric Harland, who cuts up the beat as energetically and creatively as anyone on the scene today, fuels the proceedings with his rhythmic ingenuity and infinite capacity to swing.

This two-CD set accommodates maximum stretching. “Chords,” the brisk 6/8 opener from Disc 1, underscored by Harland’s swinging pulse, weighs in at 16 minutes, while the expansive and elegiac closer “A Life Unfolds” (which Rosenwinkel previously recorded on 2001’s The Next Step) resolves in 17 minutes and includes a full four minutes of beautiful chordal work by the guitarist on the intro. The title track is an alluring tango-flavored number featuring some extraordinary high-register excursions by Turner. And “Flute” is another showcase for Rosenwinkel’s flowing fretboard facility.

Rosenwinkel alternates between a clean tone and warm, slightly distorted sound, blowing over the changes with impunity in a remarkably fluid scalar manner reminiscent of guitar-god Allan Holdsworth, who probably exerts a greater influence on Rosenwinkel than the Big Three (Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Bill Frisell) exerted on many of his fellow Berklee students. In fact, Rosenwinkel now may be the single-most-imitated guitarist among recent Berklee grads since the mass emulation of Metheny’s tone, phrasing and overall style during the ’70s.

Disc 2 includes the driving 12/8 number “View From Moscow,” which includes more legato heroics by Rosenwinkel and also finds Turner unleashing with abandon over the full length of his horn. The vibrant “Terra Nova” builds to a pulse-quickening crescendo that culminates in an explosive show-stopping drum solo by Harland. After such whirlwind intensity and such a dizzying deluge of so many notes, the soulful, blues-drenched ballad “Safe Corners,” underscored by Harland’s gentle touch on drums and Rosenwinkel’s subtle wordless vocal accompaniment, comes as a welcome breath of fresh air. Goldberg’s unhurried Monk-ish piano solo here is particularly effective. Disc 2 concludes with Turner’s “Myron’s World,” his dramatic and bristling tribute to fellow saxophonist Myron Walden (a charter member with Rosenwinkel in Brian Blade’s Fellowship) that captures the band at the peak of their swinging powers.

Originally published in May 2008
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