Having put time in with both Gary Burton and Joe Henderson’s bands, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel has certainly earned his chops. The fact that his latest recording, Reflections, is his eighth as bandleader does not hurt either.
Kurt may be best known for his previous recording, The Remedy – Live At The Village Vanguard, from 2007. On that powerful disc, he was able to let his inner Mahavishnu run wild on a slew of original tunes. On Standards, Rosenwinkel takes a very different approach. Along with bassist Eric Revis (Branford Marsalis Quartet), and drummer Eric Harland (Charles Lloyd Quartet), Rosenwinkel interprets a number of famous ballads.
The disc opens up with a nice take on the Thelonious Monk classic, “Reflections.” Kurt’s guitar leads follow the original faithfully, and it is a wonder to hear such a great song updated in this fashion. But the bass solo by Eric Revis is even more memorable. This is a player destined for great things.
Song five is another Monk tune, “Ask Me Now.” The trio’s adaptation is just as effective as it was on “Reflections,” right down to another great bass solo from Eric Revis.
Rosenwinkle’s trio also tackles a couple of Wayne Shorter compositions, both “Ana Maria” and “Fall” by the former Miles Davis saxophonist receiving a nod. It is a sign of a true master to hear Kurt go from the hard-bop of Monk’s piano, to the elegant sax lines of Shorter without ever missing a beat.
The only Rosenwinkel original among the eight tracks on Standards is “East Coast Love Affair.” Although this song is basically a ballad, Kurt is able to show off his nimble guitar-playing ability to excellent effect throughout, especially in the introduction.
Reflections certainly lives up to it’s title. While the tempos are for the most part relaxed, the level of musicianship is top-shelf. There is never a sense of any of these three men laying back. In a trio format, everyone is right out there, front and center. It generally falls upon the bass player to hold things together, and Eric Bevis does an excellent job.
After listening to Standards a few times though, I have found that the unsung hero is actually drummer Eric Harland. His rhythm is as spot-on as it gets. I love the fact that he never feels the need to get showy. The guy can certainly keep time, but more importantly, he knows that in this context, he does not need to “prove” himself.
Reflections is a disc well suited to those times of the day that one may feel “reflective,” such as late at night. But truthfully, this music is done so well that it suits my listening habits any time.