Kurt Rosenwinkel: Heartcore

Kurt Rosenwinkel

On Heartcore his latest Verve release, Kurt Rosenwinkel exhibits the pastoral swell of a modern young man gazing over the horizon without ironic detachment or cloying sentiment. This is the spirituality of John Coltrane’s playing, the musicality of Charles Mingus’s arrangement, and the marriage of the industrial age with the heartland found in the compositions of Pat Metheny. No jam band headhunting à la Medeski Martin and Wood or John Scofield. Rosenwinkel makes music with nothing to prove as far as technique is concerned.

But it is the spirit of Metheny that lingers, when all is said and done although not in an overtly imitative way. For instance while tracks like “Interlude” and “Our Secret World” may sounds like compositions for the next release from the Pat Metheny Group, Rosenwinkel grounds his music with harder rhythms and steadier heartbeats giving the sense of a stronger physicality. That underpinning anchors the jazzy flights of Rosenwinkel’s guitar and the stellar support work throughout.

Heartcore invites the wide open into the interior as if capturing an epic tale not through vision but sound. Title track has wordless vocal comment on the melody that brings to mind an otherworldly visitation from a David Lynch dreamscape. “Dream/Memory?” furthers the sense of establishing contact with the unknown and begs for a streaming visual complement. So much is made of the power of technology to fuel the imagination, but these tracks provide a strong counter-argument for simply tapping into the human experience as a fertile voice for inspiration.

The presence of former Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip may telegraph an expectation of a far more straightforward ‘acid jazz’ styled merger for those not willing to consider the deep love of jazz evident in the Tribe’s work, particularly their collaborations with bassist Ron Carter. As a producer here, Q-Tip works with Rosenwinkel to foster an environment to explore the basis of a lasting relationship between the heart and the tools of the mind.

“Love in the Modern World” flows from its natural acoustic terrain into a world of endless electric power lines without losing any of its pure beauty. It is a delicate balance and proves how jazz can evolve in these modern times without succumbing to the lowest common denominator that most young musicians take by attempting to concoct a fusion of jazz with hip-hop or electronica. The drums and programming by Rosenwinkel is a soulful and surprisingly organic use of technology alongside Ben Street’s acoustic bass and Mariano Gill’s flute.

Saxophonist Mark Turner contributes mightily to Heartcore. His tenor sax provides a dancing voice in the largely impressionistic settings concocted by Rosenwinkel and as in the case of “Blue Line”, even inspires the guitarist develop a funkier groove by the end of the track. Also, Andrew D’Angelo’s bass clarinet work on “Your Vision” brings to mind one of Mingus’s weird nightmares or the latter Miles Davis / Marcus Miller efforts like their atmospheric work on the soundtrack to the film Siesta.

It is definitely not my intention to take anything away from the musical influences and fine work of a talented crew of associates both on the instruments and behind the soundboards, but this set belongs exclusively to Kurt Rosenwinkel. All of the compositions are his, except for “Tone Poem”, the final track on which he shares writing credit with Street and drummer Jeff Ballard. But far more importantly, the album has the thematic unity that can only come from one man’s sonic exploration of himself and the road ahead.