Kurt Rosenwinkel – Undercover (Live at the Village Vanguard)

5,May,2023

Legendary guitarist and composer Kurt Rosenwinkel’s latest quartet with visionary jazz musicians Aaron Parks (Piano & Fender Rhodes), Eric Revis (Acoustic Bass) and Greg Hutchinson (Drums). Rosenwinkel returns to the hallowed ground of The Village Vanguard and presents an electrifying set of original compositions captured in 2022 of the quartet’s week-long performance run.

BERLIN, April 19, 2023

Kurt Rosenwinkel’s radical compositional spirit and his utterly singular voice on the guitar have made him one of modern music’s most respected figures. His latest quartet features longtime collaborators Aaron Parks on piano and Fender Rhodes and Eric Revis on acoustic bass, both of whom played on Rosenwinkel’s widely acclaimed Star of Jupiter (2012). Drummer Greg Hutchinson has collaborated with Rosenwinkel in various projects since the 1990s. Each instrumentalist in Rosenwinkel’s quartet is a generational talent, who, much like Rosenwinkel himself, has left indelible imprints on the sound of contemporary jazz. The group’s exhilarating recording Undercover: Live At The Village Vanguard is a selection of seven of Rosenwinkel’s original compositions, captured over three nights of their week-long run at the historic Village Vanguard, the legendary New York jazz club that has been host to the defining artists in jazz, including Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson and countless others. Undercover: Live At The Village Vanguard captures the joyous, visceral energy of Rosenwinkel’s masterful quartet, and easily finds its place in the continuum of historic recordings made there.

The Village Vanguard is something of a second home to all the members of Rosenwinkel’s quartet. Each member has performed there many times in many different projects, as well as alongside Rosenwinkel himself in his various musical formations over his career. Rosenwinkel’s last live album, The Remedy, was also recorded at The Village Vanguard, and he returns triumphant with more than a decade of new material and experience under his belt. He is reverent when he speaks about The Village Vanguard, saying, “The Vanguard is the holy grail… it’s where you go to connect to the spiritual continuum of jazz. It’s a sanctuary and a temple, where you’re adding your vibrations to a space that has also been a temple for musicians like John Coltrane”. This deep feeling of communion expressed by Rosenwinkel is condensed into radiant clarity by the performances captured here.

Rosenwinkel’s guitar lines are luminous and self-assured as he climbs slowly from octaves into glimmering fragments of arpeggios. Parks’ solo piano intro on “Solé” is resplendent, his soft melodies cadencing with gravitational poise, set in relief against chair squeaks and the soft chime of clinking wine glasses. On “Music” Revis solos with Parks, the physicality of his solo traces the contours of Parks’ passing chords with telekinetic synchronicity. Behind them, Hutchinson’s grooves weave gracefully between the soloists before Rosenwinkel brings it all home with a sinuous liquid solo. Hutchinson and Revis similarly propel the group on “The Past Intact” with ferocious kinetic energy, as Parks and Rosenwinkel stab angular modal chord clusters over the fray.

As audience members, we return again and again to great live recordings because they are able to capture some indefinable semblance of what it was like to be there. Let Rosenwinkel set the scene at The Vanguard for you from his perspective: “The lights go down, the audience gets quiet, and the stage lights come up. You walk on stage and feel the incredibly focused energy of the room. It’s like going into a dreamworld.” A dreamworld we listeners are all too lucky to inhabit with him and his transcendent quartet.

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