Kurt Rosenwinkel has a well-earned reputation for aggressive guitar playing that's both rhythmically astute and harmonically exploratory, a talent that he's applied with Mark Turner and Brad Mehldau as well as with hiphop producer Q-Tip. With Reflections, he has reined in his sometimes-divergent impulses for an unusual collection of standards and tunes by Thelonious Monk and Wayne Shorter that's almost all at ballad tempo, with the sturdy support and interaction of bassist Eric Revis and drummer Eric Harland.
The first thing to catch one's attention is Rosenwinkel's guitar sound, unmistakably an amplified archtop, but so luminous that only the subtlest alterations and the best fingers could achieve it, so rich that it comes as a shock when Rosenwinkel applies it to some daunting runs. The opening account of Monk's "Reflections" sets the tone for the CD, a respectful reading that soon achieves its own harmonic and group language, a sense of incipient blues and a dialogue between the three musicians that's still apparent in Rosenwinkel's quiet, upper-register comping behind Revis' bass solo.
Every sudden and muted detail in Rosenwinkel's playing, every chorded passage or aside, seems to sing in the service of an ultimate lyric effusion. It's apparent in the lightly echoed effervescence of "You Go To My Head" and in Shorter's "The Fall," propelled by a gentle samba beat. Rosenwinkel gives "More than You Know" an ambivalent mood, with an opening improvisation that alternates dark-hued, pensive chordings with short runs that burst into light.
The only original in the program is "East Coast Love Affair," a longstanding Rosenwinkel composition that was the title track to his 1996 debut. Beginning with a long unaccompanied introduction, it has a clarity that somehow fuses a baroque sense of order with a harmonic imagination that can suggest Satie or Scriabin. Nearly ten minutes long, it might be the highlight of an already brilliant CD.
Track Listing: Reflections; You Go to My Head; Fall; East Coast Love Affair; Ask Me Now; Ana Maria; More Than You Know; You've Changed.
Personnel: Kurt Rosenwinkel: guitar; Eric Revis: bass; Eric Harland: drums.
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