Magazine article Guitar Player

Kurt Rosenwinkel

Magazine article Guitar Player

Kurt Rosenwinkel

Article excerpt

Jazz Infidel Steps Up

"You could think of me as a jazz renegade or a traditionalist," says Kurt Rosenwinkel, "and either way, you'd be right." When it comes to jazz tradition, the 30-year-old guitarist's fingers must have marinated in the stuff, or else he wouldn't have found himself performing with legends such as Joe Henderson, Gary Burton, and Paul Motian.

But there is a renegade in Rosenwinkel--one that leads him to rather unconventional solutions to common creative crises. After years of studying music, one day I suddenly felt I knew too much," recalls the Berklee College of Music graduate. "Wherever I put my finger on the neck, I always knew exactly how things were going to sound. My natural curiosity was gone, and I felt I had ruined my relationship with music and the guitar. So I detuned my guitar randomly, and instantly obliterated my fretboard knowledge. Suddenly, I didn't know anything, and that was such a relief. Ignorance is bliss!"

Rosenwinkel's rogue tunings--featured on his new release The Next Step [Verve]--have become a hallmark of his sound. The tunings put an array of possibilities at his fingertips--droning low open strings, celestial high notes, and angular melodies. "I want the guitar to deliver several things," says Rosenwinkel. "I want melodies to move within chords--like what a pianist can do--and I want the single-note fluidity and dexterity you can get on saxophone. I also want to play ambient-sounding chords like an orchestral string section and get the soft, midrange warmth of a flugelhorn."

Though the guitarist keeps an Epiphone Sheraton onstage for his radical tunings, his main electric is a Gibson ES-345, and, like many jazz guitarists, Rosenwinkel is fanatical about solidstate Polytone Mini-Brute amps. "The Polytone lets you hear every note," he explains. "When you play a chord, each note in the harmony is clearly defined. …

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