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Jazz Notes: Album Review of Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Adventurous New Recording ‘Caipi’

Kurt Rosenwinkel

By Denin Koch, Contributing Writer ZEALnyc, March 6, 2017

Here’s the thing about Kurt Rosenwinkel’s newest release, Caipi: if you approach it expecting to hear the Rosenwinkel that fans have come to know over the years, this album will let you down. This is Rosenwinkel’s version of a rock band’s third album: It’s the album he’s wanted to make all along but couldn’t until now. Taken at face value, this album is a collection of lush and colorful (if not musically engaging) songs that reveal an entirely new direction for the guitarist-composer.

Caipi’s strongest ties to Rosenwinkel’s past are its beautiful melodies. Smooth, singable lines fill each track and are the only real element that hints at vintage Rosenwinkel in the compositions themselves. Of course, the guitarist’s fret work is still present. It’s just few and far between. Blistering solos on “Chromatic B” and “Caipi” are the highlights. Beyond the melodies and unmistakable guitar tone, however, the sound of this new album is hardly recognizable as Rosenwinkel at all. If Caipi is any indication, Rosenwinkel has absorbed quite a few new influences since 2012’s Star of Jupiter. Hints of Pat Metheny Group, Sigur Ros, Bon Iver, Radiohead, R.E.M., Passion Pit, Sufjan Stevens and others are all apparent here, whether it be in the mix, the instrumentation, the groove or the lyrics. Almost every instrument heard (including vocals) is played by Rosenwinkel himself, so the music you hear is more or less exactly what the artist had in mind. Unfortunately, Rosenwinkel isn’t nearly as proficient a drummer or vocalist as he is a guitarist, and while his drumming and singing don’t detract from the album, they don’t contribute much, either.

Several notable guests make appearances, including Mark Turner on “Ezra” and “Casio Escher” and Eric Clapton on “Little Dream.” However, even these aren’t enough to lift Caipi to anything more than an experiment in pop for Rosenwinkel. For longtime fans of the guitarist, this album will likely be a disappointment. However, for those willing to put aside any and all expectations, Caipi is an amusing diversion that will leave you with a few tunes to get stuck in your head.

Rating: 5/10
Standout tracks: “Caipi,” “Chromatic B,” “Casio Vanguard”

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[Editor’s Note: Rosenwinkel will debut his new album Caipi at Birdland March 14-18.]

Cover: Kurt Rosenwinkel; photo: Bob Berry.


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