The decidedly new age concept for Kurt Rosenwinkel’s 10th album as a leader, a cosmology-infused double-disc collection of originals for quartet, came to him in a dream. “The ‘Star of Jupiter’ was given to me as a key to transcend the cycles of form, illusion, and fear which exist on this earthly plane of existence,” he says in the album’s press release.
The 42-year-old guitarist is a singular and influential voice, with a vaunted reputation for his imposing technical ability and, in recent years, interpretation of standards. But Rosenwinkel’s lithe, cascading style adapts well to more celestial regions of the jazz stratosphere. Longtime collaborator Aaron Parks channels Chick Corea’s early electric aesthetic via Rhodes, piano, organ, Wurlitzer and tack piano. Filling out the group is Branford Marsalis regular Eric Revis on acoustic bass and 21-year-old newcomer Justin Faulkner (also of Marsalis’ quartet) on drums. Not to say Rosenwinkel’s dream is a throwback to fusion; on 5/4 opener “Gamma Band,” he romanticizes the guitar too much to give it the hard edge of Birds of Fire, and on lighter fare, such as the reverb-heavy power ballad “Heavenly Bodies,” ventures into the outer limits of harmony and odd-meter time in a way that suggests 21st-century postbop more than jazz-rock.
At times, Rosenwinkel sings along to his guitar, compounding the funk sensibility on the midtempo “Homage A’Mitch,” a tribute to Mitch Borden, the owner of Smalls who gave him a musical home in the ’90s. This makes the hard-swinging “A Shifting Design,” where Rosenwinkel shifts the mood and cuts loose, all the more surprising and effective.