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Kurt Rosenwinkel Group: The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard

John Kelman By

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It's been over a decade since Kurt Rosenwinkel's last live album. East Coast Love Affair (Fresh Sound New Talent, 1997) was the guitarist's first as a leader, and much has happened since then. Over the course of five additional albums and countless appearances as a guest on albums by artists including saxophonist Mark Turner and drummers Brian Blade and Paul Motian, he's gone from promising guitarist to one of his generation's most distinctive voices. East Coast was largely standards-based, but on The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard the emphasis is almost entirely on Rosenwinkel's writing, the one exception being Turner's "Myron's World," first heard on the saxophonist's Dharma Days (Warner Bros., 2001).

A critically revered artist and ongoing Rosenwinkel collaborator who has yet to achieve the same degree of popular acclaim, Turner's a fluidly inventive player whose own discography is defined by an adventurous, forward-thinking approach that successfully places head and heart in close proximity, with superlative writing that avoids sacrificing substance despite its eminent accessibility. The simpatico shared by Rosenwinkel and Turner is clear on the buoyant "Myron's World," which begins with a remarkably focused a capella intro from Turner with no lulls despite its nearly five minute length. When the band kicks in, Rosenwinkel delivers an equally extended solo whose fiery intensity is matched by the support of pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Eric Harland, who seems to be everywhere these days, most notably on saxophonist Charles Lloyd's outstanding Rabo de Nube (ECM, 2008).

Rosenwinkel's own The Next Step (Verve, 2000) is an early high point in a career filled with high water marks, and its finale, the initially balladic "A Life Unfolds," is reprised here; the only track not new to Rosenwinkel's repertoire. Both versions open with Rosenwinkel alone, but comparison makes clear just how far he's come in the intervening years, playing with greater harmonic verticality. With Goldberg's empathic support, Rosenwinkel is freed up from pulling double duty as the tune turns more assertive for another powerful solo from Turner that ultimately dissolves into more abstract territory for Goldberg, another player who manages to combine modernity with respect for traditional roots. Martin may be the least-known member of the quintet (though he's worked on the road with Rosenwinkel in recent years), but delivers intuitive accompaniment and lyrical soloing that deserves a place alongside contemporaries Scott Colley, Drew Gress and Larry Grenadier.

Harland's visceral playing drives tunes like the thematically knotty "Chords" as well as the gentler title track which, alongside "Flute," finds the quintet at its most lyrical. Regardless of context, this is a group with one foot in the present and the other in the future with unforced inevitability.

The quintet's unmistakable but never excessive virtuosity—and ability to navigate Rosenwinkel's often episodic but open-ended writing with palpable clarity and chemistry—makes The Remedy not only Rosenwinkel's hottest album to date, but the finest in a constantly searching discography showing no sign of becoming complacent or predictable.

Track Listing: CD1: Chords; The Remedy; Flute; A Life Unfolds. CD2: View From Moscow; Terra Nova; Safe Corners; Myron's World.

Personnel: Kurt Rosenwinkel: guitar; Mark Turner: saxophone; Aaron Goldberg: piano; Joe Martin: bass; Eric Harland: drums.

Title: The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Wommusic

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