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2013 Montreal Jazz Festival: June 28-July 2, 2013

John Kelman By

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That Rosenwinkel often opens his shows with "Our Secret World" suggests it's a good warm-up tune for whatever group he's surrounded himself with onstage, but it was clearly more than a warm-up; it was a workout that brought the quartet completely together. Also featuring 29 year-old pianist Aaron Parks—whose own star has continued to rise since he first appeared with Terence Blanchard a decade ago and, more recently, with the collective James Farm, whose 2012 performance at Germany's Enjoy Jazz Festival was a highlight of that year—Rosenwinkel then moved into material from Star of Jupiter, starting with the almost soulful "Welcome Home," but with its odd meters and unexpected accents, something a little less danceable and a lot more cerebral. Parks, on piano, didn't inject the electronic keyboards he does on the recording, but still provided the ambiguous harmonies that gave the tune its push and pull, tension and release.

"A Shifting Design" came next, its idiosyncratic head ultimately settling into a bright-tempo'd swing, with Okegwo and Scott joined at the hip as Rosenwinkel managed to sing along with his outrageously complex yet clearly (at least, to Rosenwinkel) lyrical lines. Parks introduced "Heavenly Bodies" alone with an impressionistic solo, and if it's not something normally obvious, the melody to this waltz-time ballad suggests a hint of John McLaughlin also under Rosenwinkel's covers, though it eventually evolved into a heavier place that could be called fusion in its strong backbeat and occasional power chords, but was equally something else entirely.

Throughout the set, Okewgo—who was seen in an almost diametrically opposed context in Ottawa with trumpeter Tom Harrell the week before—proved his mettle, righteously swinging "Homage A'Mitch" while driving the closing title track to Star of Jupiter with a Latin groove bolstered by Scott's groove-centric but relentlessly frenetic support. The drummer's equally unrelenting outro solo brought the tune back to its theme to close out the set on a powerful and decisive note, but only after Rosenwinkel delivered a soaring solo that clearly spoke with his complex language but still managed to evoke a hint of the American Midwest that's been such a longstanding undercurrent for Metheny, one of Rosenwinkel's early influences—albeit one long since subsumed into the younger guitarist's own vernacular. One of Metheny's signatures is music that sounds easy but reveals its greater complexities under the hood; for the most part, Rosenwinkel's music was unmistakably challenging, yet still managed to remain accessible and thoroughly exhilarating throughout the set.

After a well-deserved standing ovation, Rosenwinkel returned with a perfect encore, the gentle "Under It All." His a cappella introduction was—just as it is on the record (but, of course, completely different)—impressive, suggesting that Rosenwinkel may well have a solo guitar recording in him. Who knows? The one thing Rosenwinkel has been with his discography is surprising, following a powerhouse live record (2008's The Remedy) with a gentle trio record of standards (2009's Reflections (both also on his Wommusic imprint); then moving from a large ensemble record (Our Secret World) to what, in Star of Jupiter, may be his most fully realized recording to date. Whatever strikes Rosenwinkel next, the only certainty is that it will be well worth hearing.



Leaving for home on July 3, there were still another five days of concerts to go at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, but despite a relatively short stay, and despite limiting the number of shows seen, it was proof, once again, that FIJM is a festival like no other, a place where, for five days, it was possible to ignore what was going on in the world and live in a jazz bubble. There's always a bit of culture shock going home from FIJM, but that only makes returning to the festival all the more desirable. With FIJM turning 35 in 2014, there's no doubt it'll be another year to remember.

Photo Credits

Page 8 (Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran): Dave Kaufman

All Other Photos: John Kelman

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