Kurt Rosenwinkel first got my attention as the cerebral but melodic guitarist on Brian Blade's masterpiece Perceptual back in 2000 and then via Rosenwinkel's own major work of art Heartcore from three years later. That vastly overlooked record was a commanding balance of musicianship, texture, and composition that today remains one of the best fusion releases of the last five years.
While songwriting may come in a close second, Rosenwinkel is first and foremost an accomplished guitar player. The reason why his guitar playing is so attractive to me is that it is a amalgamation of many of my favorite jazz guitarists: Pat Metheny, Pat Martino, John Scofield and Bill Frisell. This resulting mix is a style all his own: rich in melody and harmonics, solid in technique. You don't even have to be a jazz fan to appreciate his playing style. Rosenwinkel has also been known to vocalize over his guitar lines, but in hushed tones, not scatting. It adds a little harmonic heft to his sound.
Only two albums after Heartcore, The Remedy: Live At The Village Vanguard finds Rosenwinkel in a live format in his working quintet consisting of Mark Turner (tenor sax), Aaron Goldberg (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Eric Harland (drums). With Rosenwinkel albums coming less frequently than they used to and a curiosity about how this talented guitarist can perform in an acoustic straight-jazz setting on his feet made me eagerly anticipate this February release. Rosenwinkel uses this same guitar/sax/piano/ bass/drums configuration for Heartcore's studio follow-up Deep Song. For that 2005 release, he was backed up by the Brad Mehldau Trio, Joshua Redman, and Ali Jackson. This time around, Rosenwinkel performs with the working band he has assembled since that recording.
The first thing that's apparent from The Remedy is that Rosenwinkel had serious intentions about this live document. You don't choose to record in the same venue where Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, and countless other greats laid to tape some memorable performances if you don't plan on making a major statement about your ability to play jazz in front of a sophisticated live audience.