About Kurt Rosenwinkel
What my music is about in general — and this album is no diﬀerent — has to do with the relationship that we each have with the universe at large and how we use our intuition to hear what it is telling us.
It came to him in a dream. What guitarist and composer Kurt Rosenwinkel describes as an “understanding” of profound proportion, manifested as Star of Jupiter; the title of his tenth album as a leader, to be released November 13th on Wommusic. Not a literal entity but rather a philosophy, as it was revealed to him, “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. The dream was powerful and continued into real life. It became a tangible force in the making of this album.” A celestial collection of entirely original compositions, all but one previously unrecorded, Star of Jupiter transports listeners on a journey toward discovery, truth and ultimately peace.
On his ﬁrst quartet album since the ground-breaking 2001 release The Next Step, he oﬀers a variation of that ensemble make-up on Star of Jupiter, assembling a stellar band which includes pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Eric Revis, and the dynamic young drummer and fellow Philadelphia native, Justin Faulkner.Star of Jupiter is a departure from what has previously helped deﬁne Rosenwinkel’s prowess, yet is strikingly inclusive of the broad spectrum of his musical magnitude. Rosenwinkel’s brilliant use of space is paired with deeply aﬀective melodies and sensual grooves that evolve slowly and steadily; a quality in the music Rosenwinkel fully identiﬁes with and whole-heartedly embraces. “Being able to vamp on a simple progression for a long time…” he says, “I’ve never had a band that really wanted to do that and I love the fact that that’s something we do… immerse into and experience that warmth of the groove.
It’s something that we discovered as a band and deﬁnitely wanted to include on the record. That soulful groove feeling… it’s a quality the band naturally ﬁnds and brings out in the music, which makes me very happy because I feel it’s a true expression of who I am as an artist and a person; to be meditating on sensuality and transcendence even while things can be complex and intellectually demanding under the hood, ‘Under it All.’”
Rosenwinkel’s band came together as organically as their sound has. He and Parks have been collaborating since 2006, playing each other’s compositions, and Parks joined on highly-anticipated live dates at the historical Village Vanguard in New York City. Revis, a longtime friend and one of the “spiritual foundations” of the group, who appeared on Rosenwinkel’s alluring 2009 trio album Reﬂections, recommended Faulkner to round out the band after working with him extensively in Branford Marsalis’ quartet. “It’s an exciting thing when all the chemistry works together,” reveals Rosenwinkel, “and you hit upon a magical combination where the sum is more than its parts.”
Although one of the most emotive interpreters of standards repertoire, Rosenwinkel is also undoubtedly one of his generation’s most proliﬁc composers. The National Endowment for the Arts Composer’s Award winner asserts that it is his writing which helped develop what has now become a singular voice in modern jazz. He also credits his Philadelphia hometown for a solid and communal musical upbringing, where he grew up.
It’s here that he had the platform to develop his distinctive voice, which has garnered international critical acclaim, and attention from such wide- ranging artists as Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots, the legendary Eric Clapton, and Q-Tip formally of the iconic hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, with whom Rosenwinkel has been featured both live and on his highly regarded solo eﬀorts, The Renaissance (2008) and Kamaal the Abstract (2009). (The renowned rapper also co-produced Rosenwinkel’s exploratory 2003 release, Heartcore.) “I can’t really control what comes out of me, compositionally speaking,” says Rosenwinkel. “In fact, it’s kind of like I’m discovering things that are already there when I’m writing so the process of composition is more about having a blank slate in my mind and then seeing what comes and then discovering things. I feel like it’s less of a function of will than it is a function of just listening.”
A truly transcendental outing, Rosenwinkel doesn’t abandon the tradition which threads his playing and established his resonant foundation. Songs like the gloriously swinging “A Shifting Design” and “Mr. Hope” present a nexus of earthiness amidst etherealness, with Parks delivering a delightfully Monk-ish solo on the latter; an homage to the unsung bebop pianist Elmo Hope. “Homage a’ Mitch” is another bow to his deep bebop roots as embodied by Mitch Borden, who owned Smalls jazz club in New York City’s West Village throughout the 90′s where Rosenwinkel’s bands played a major role in the now legendary scene.
Yet for all its cohesiveness and accessibility, Star of Jupiter deﬁes easy categorization. “Gamma Band”, the album opener, is a force of nature in 5/4 with a ﬁery propulsion from Faulkner, who seems to be able to adapt to every aesthetic with an honesty and skill that is not only beyond his twenty-one years, but rare in general, while Rosenwinkel’s addition of signature vocals is particularly enrapturing. Revis’ melodic lines elevate the momentum to new heights, and Parks delivers yet another eﬀulgent solo.
Gorgeous and sultry, “Heavenly Bodies” is perhaps the most deﬁning song on the album, taking the listener on an eleven minute voyage through the macrocosm. Rosenwinkel delivers a spell-binding performance, with the band majestically orbiting a hypnotic vamp half the length of the song.
Rosenwinkel has continuously taken gallant steps in his artistry, and now, with Star of Jupiter, articulates his vision on the deepest level yet. Irrefutably the most inﬂuential jazz guitarist of the new millennium, Rosenwinkel is steering the ship on a journey which encompasses more than an adept mastery of his instrument. Star of Jupiter is an experience; an opportunity for listeners to hear in the music, their own dreams.
“All the world around me dissolves and falls downwards into streaming lines of color and texture while a voice rings out, ‘Everything is True.’ Someone hands me the Star of Jupiter and we ascend to the celestial heavens, where a golden-winged lion guards an inﬁnite number of thrones and the greatest peace pervades all.”