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Interviews

Kurt Rosenwinkel: New Creative Roads

By Published: December 1, 2003

The guitarist is soft spoken, but expressive and direct. "I think America is in a repressive psychotic dream. This country is in self delusion," he says. "It's an American mentality to think that things can just expand and get bigger, forever, indefinitely. We live in a land of inexhaustible resources. And that's an immature mentality, because it's just wrong. It's like a kid thinking they're immortal. You're not. There isn't just inexhaustible resources. How big does an SUV have to be? What do you do when you've reached the limit? It's like a psychosis, because it's a denial of : what do you do when you get to the limit? You have to look back to yourself to ask yourself: I've reached the end of quantity, now what about quality? And that's a much deeper and tougher question."

Artists are not reflecting the society, he feels. Instead, they " one of the sources that can actually show a society where it needs to be' I think artists are in conflict with society, not a reflection of society. Real artists. By following idealism or truth can be a teacher of society. Someone who has the power to bring meaning into life in a public way."

Like it is with so many musicians, the club scene isn't drawing any rave reviews from this guitarist.

"It's really fucked up. It's a larger context for me. It's American society and what that means. What is that? People aren't going out. People aren't going to clubs. Some people are. But it's more the fault of the business climate. It's so hard to make things work financially. It's hard to get a gig. You can't even struggle in New York anymore. You have to be part of the system or not. It's getting more black and white. Either you're a part of it, or not. If you're not, you're even more disenfranchised. I think that's the stratification of society, which is just getting worse and worse."

All that said, Rosenwinkel is still expecting to get steady work with the musicians he has had collaborations with. Although his address is changing, "the cool thing about going over there is that I don't have to really change that much. I'm in a good position where I can solidify that position more, which is being able to just play with the musicians that I'm already playing with now. Fly from a different airport and come back to a different airport. I'll have to miss out on the occasional 55Bar gig or the occasional Fat Cat gig [in New York], but everything else, my presence will effectively be the same. So I'm looking forward to that.

"Also, I'm happy about the fact that career-wise, it isn't really changing that much. In a strange way, it actually might make it better for me. Just the natural phenomenon of when you change something, you create the possibility for other things in your life to progress. If there's one thing in your life that's blocking you in a certain way, it spreads over into other problem that aren't even associated with that. Your whole life is blocked. In order to progress in these other areas that aren't even related to that thing, you have to deal with that thing and get past the block And by doing that, it opens up everything else."

He's still, listening, learning and growing as a musician and is influenced not only by the past, but those he hears today.

"[Pat] Metheny, man. He's the king. I don't really go for his recorded stuff these days, but I saw him live and I was really happy because he reestablished himself in my pantheon. His natural melodicism is so free and just inspiring," says Rosenwinkel, who also counts Frisell among his heroes.

"I've been playing with this drummer, Ollie Jackson. He's having a huge impact on me. He played with Wynton. I played with him last weekend at Fat Cat. We played three nights. Me and Josh Redman and Ollie Jackson and Aaron Goldberg and Joe Martin. It was just incredible. Ollie Jackson is just such a high and rooted, peaceful, grooving musician. Unbelievable. He's really inspiring me. Also Josh. We were playing my music and brings these songs that are complex harmonically, and faster songs that move a lot of places quickly, a lot of changes, difficult stuff - he builds these things like a pot of boiling water and it just boils over. They become like anthems. He can turn the most dense harmonic slalom into an anthem of singing music. It's incredible. I've been floored by those guys in my recent musical experience."

Rosenwinkel is content with a new turn in life and new musical roads ahead. "My life is going great' The adventure continues. It doesn't stop."



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