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For Your Consideration: Kurt Rosenwinkel's 'Star of Jupiter'

Jonathan Wertheim
Staff Writer
jon.wertheim@gmail.com / @disgruntledjazz

Kurt Rosenwinkel doesn't raise much of a ruckus. In fact, the last ruckus I remember him raising was a Facebook plea with musicians to stop raising ruckuses and get on with their music.

Rosenwinkel's forty-two years old. He's been making music for a few years now. He's weathered all the trends and all the fads well, mainly by not getting involved in any of them. Instead, he's been making excellent records that sound like Kurt Rosenwinkel records.

Every creative artist comes to a turning point in his/her career, a point where the artist stops ascending and starts settling into his/her chosen place. In the last couple of years, Rosenwinkel has been experimenting in his music as much as he ever has, but instead of singing in a strange pseudo-Polish or getting Joshua Redman to play like Mark Turner or somehow getting all the way through "Lennie's Groove" without his head exploding, he was experimenting with, well, very traditional ways of playing - the big band, the guitar trio. The music he played invariably refreshed the format, but still, the tides were changing.

Now I see why. The logic of Kurt has prevailed once again, for Star Of Jupiter, the guitarist's newest record (out today from Wommusic), is, I believe, the best of his career. I see now that Reflections and Our Secret World were the preludes to Rosenwinkel's personal turning point. Star Of Jupiter is a fully matured record from a fully matured creative voice. Every element of Rosenwinkel's career is here - even "Under It All," the title track from his never-released but legendary 1999 record.

It's a fitting phrase. Kurt doesn't like to make a ruckus. Instead, he likes to play music. Indeed, it seems to be all he's programmed for. And he's got it right. While we in the jazz webiverse are arguing about Robert Glasper or asking if jazz is really dead this time, Kurt is playing his tunes - and making standards into his tunes - in Stockholm or Paris or New York or Berlin.

"Something Sometime", the totally badass "Mr. Hope" and the magnificent "Hommage a Mitch" (reminiscent of Benny Golson, perhaps) on this disc show that Kurt isn't afraid to swing, and swing hard, as Glasper seems to be. He can also unleash a fully modern fury, as on the title track or "kurt1".

But it's that "Under It All" that really stands out. Slowly building from an introspective guitar intro to a pulsing melody statement to a crescendo of voice, guitar and effects, and finally lowering itself back into the groove of the melody, the track is a perfect analogy to Kurt's own trajectory - the trajectory of a musician whose business is music, not self-promotion or the mumbo-jumbo of so many ambitious players today, eager for social ramifications and historical significance. It's a tune I could listen to over and over again, for hours.

Kurt has finally settled. Buckle your seatbelts, folks - and buy Star Of Jupiter.

Kurt Rosenwinkel - Something, Sometime (clip)

Kurt Rosenwinkel - kurt1 (clip)

Kurt Rosenwinkel - Under It All (clip)

Jon Wertheim, a jazz writer and reviewer, writes at his jazz blog, The Disgruntled Jazz Critic, here at Nextbop, and on Twitter.