The following review was first posted on jazz unDone.
As is the case at other major record labels, Verve's jazz roster is falling apart. Most of their recent releases are by smooth jazz musicians (David Sanborn) or mega-selling singers (Jamie Cullum), and then there are the never-ending reissues. However, on March 1, in a welcome exception to this trend, Verve will issue a new CD by a deserving player: guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel's Deep Song. I was lucky enough to recieve an advance copy.
Much of Deep Song focuses on intricate arrangements, rather than the usual head-solo-head format. On songs like "The Cloister" and "The Cross," Rosenwinkel and band (saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Genadier, and drummers Jeff Ballard and Ali Jackson, trading turns) refrain from soloing. Instead, Rosenwinkel and Redman play winding, trance-like melodies over the rhythm section's quiet, intricate vamps. In this way, Deep Song is out of the Miles Davis "Nefertiti" tradition.
A lot of thought went into making this unique recording. Rosenwinkel overdubbed his own voice, so that he sings along with the melodies and his solos. This lends a meditative feeling to the music.
Occasionally, the band steps out to play in a more swinging style. On "Cake," A Rosenwinkel tune based on George Gershwin's "Let 'Em Eat Cake," the rhythm section masterfully changes the feeling under the soloists: from waltz, to march, to the pulse of a mid-1960's Wayne Shorter band.
Among Verve's new releases, Rosenwinkle's Deep Song is an anomaly in that it is actually interesting. Lets hope Verve keeps him on its roster.