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Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2017

John Kelman By

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But wait a tick: Kurt Rosenwinkel? vocals? Yes, Caipi —a reduction of the Brazilian (Portuguese, actually) word caipirinha—a Brazilian cocktail made with cachaca, lime or lemon juice, sugar, and crushed ice—represents not just the usual evolution expected from one of his generation's most impressive guitarists and musical conceptualists; it's an album of songs, some sung by Rosenwinkel, some by Martins and some by Trummer, but with five singers on hand, plenty of unison and octave unison parts were shared during the thirteen songs that made up the guitarist's set. And, while Rosenwinkel may not have a particularly memorable voice, he proved to certainly be a fine enough singer... not just with good pitch and an appealing tone, but capable of singing a song's melody while executing his often frighteningly constructed guitar phrases and sophisticated chordal voicings.

In fact, what was perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his L'Astral performance was that this was music that represented a completely new direction for Rosenwinkel—and kudos to the guitarist for having the cojones to make such a dramatic shift in direction, an even more monumental musical move than his 2003 electronica-centric album, Heartcore—and yet, from the very first moments of the propulsive groove that opened the set's first tune, Caipi's title track, the complexion of the collective blend of these six fine musicians (all leaders in their own right) still sounded like nobody else but Rosenwinkel.

And this was not a typical Rosenwinkel performance, with copious solo space for the guitarist to explore; again, these were songs and, besides sharing solo duties with everyone in his band, for the most part Rosenwinkel's solos—like the best song solos—were relatively limited, and kept completely within the context of the tunes, the majority of which were culled from Caipi, but also featuring a couple of new songs as well.

It may have been a bold new move for Rosenwinkel, but it was an absolutely successful one. As he told the audience during one of his introductions, he'd actually been thinking about this project for the past decade, writing material that, when it felt like a Caipirinha song, which he began describing as "a Caipi song," the guitarist would put it away until he finally had enough material to make the album. The first on his own new Heartcore Records imprint, to make that even clearer, despite dressed in his usual attire, with a cap on his head and a checkered shirt—as he wore the night before with The Bad Plus —for this show he also had a Heartcore T-shirt, worn over his long-sleeved button-down shirt.

Beyond Rosenwinkel's consistently inventive, imaginative and, for most guitarists, head- scratching solos, there were also some fine spotlight moments for the rest of the band, in particular Martins, who took a couple of solos that, while clearly his own, did suggest that he's either studied, studied with or absorbed by osmosis some of Rosenwinkel's approach to harmony, melody and tone. That said, he also added plenty of other colors to the set, including reverse-attacking lines made broader through the use of delay; occasional looping; and rich chords created with volume pedal swells and plenty of delay and reverb.

The younger Martins also added some rock energy and exhilarating visuals to the set; at one point towards the end of the set, Rosenwinkel stepped back from his position front and center stage, moving closer to Martins as he faced the other guitarist and the two played with a commonly seen rock pose. But pose it may have been, these were no poseurs; this, and the entire visual appearance of the group, was entirely natural...never contrived.

Tummer proved a fine pianist whose acumen became increasingly apparent during the show as she blended lyrical virtuosity on grand piano with a wealth of colors from a synthesizer positioned on top of it. Loureiro, who worked hand-in-glove with Campbell—no mean feat in itself, as it takes real skill for percussionists and drummers not to step on each others' toes—was given a strong solo spot over a fervent ostinato, just as Rosenwinkel was afforded the same later in the set, over an ostinato-based set of power chords delivered with gusto by Martins.

While his role was largely to anchor the group—especially when Campbell and Loureiro were creating complex polyrhythms for songs that, nevertheless, avoided irregular meters—Heliodoro did get one opportunity to strut early in the set, proving himself to be a fine soloist as well. And following the ostinato that drove Loureiro's solo, Trummer introduced "Recognized"—a new song co-written by the pianist and Rosenwinkel—with an a cappella solo that began, motif-driven, by the very same notes of that ostinato, creating a lovely sense of symmetry and continuity as she gradually expanded upon them, ultimately leading to the band's return and the next song commencing.

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