Kurt Rosenwinkel
Star of Jupiter
Word of Mouth Music

The desire to make modern jazz as technical as possible (metric modulation, anyone?) has created a stagnant pool of music school grads who can literally play anything, but forgo the art of the melody. Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, who at one time was a poster boy for the underground basement jazz scene in NYC, flexes his musical muscle with Star of Jupiter, in addition to creating memorable and lush-sounding melodies.

For his first quartet recording in a decade (and 10th as a leader), Rosenwinkel opened his compositional floodgates for a double album full of originals. Opening with the hard-driving, odd-timed piece “Gamma Band,” young drummer Justin Faulkner propels the 5/4 groove with a burning, yet precise, intensity. Faulkner’s deft technique combined with Rosenwinkel’s angular, yet accessible style make the difficult sound easy. That’s a rare trait these days.

Rosenwinkel doesn’t shy away from using effects throughout. Echo, modulation, and other octave-based sounds are his bread and butter and—along with his haunting falsetto— being able to successfully and tastefully use them without making them the focus has become his sonic signature. Star of Jupiter finally shows Rosenwinkel as a fully developed artist, improviser, and composer. Let’s hope the next generation follows his “melody first” ethos. —Jason Shadrick

Must-hear tracks: “Gamma Band,” “A Shifting Design”