Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel’s star has risen sharply in the jazz world as he’s moved from sideman with the likes of Paul Motian to being a major-label leader. And it’s all for good reason: he’s a more than able composer and his playing is articulate and hip without being obscure, evidenced by this set of originals, which also features saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Ben Street and drummer Jeff Ballard.
Starting things subtly, Rosenwinkel introduces “Zhivago” with an extended, unaccompanied episode that includes agile single-note lines and cool chords that set up the ensuing brisk-waltz groove, which provides a foundation for some enthusiastic group blowing that particularly displays his collective abilities and effected but appealing tone. Throughout, Mark Turner’s prescient tenor work provides a perfect foil for Rosenwinkel. A good example of their tacit partnership is “A Shifting Design,” which finds them delicately intertwining for some magic moments during the rubato opening before stepping things up for some grooving solos and interaction. While the guitar might be Rosenwinkel’s main instrument, he also plays piano, something he demonstrates on “The Next Step,” a dark, processional number with killer solos and powerful ensemble work.
Sound, intelligence, versatility, feel-Rosenwinkel has it all. This is how contemporary jazz guitar ought to be played.