American composer, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, and producer Kurt Rosenwinkel is one of the most celebrated musical voices in jazz and is widely renowned as one of the most distinctive and gifted guitarists to have ever played the instrument.
Rosenwinkel’s harmonically rich, rhythmically free, and incomparably fluid style has made him one of the most important jazz musicians to emerge in the last thirty years, and his groundbreaking sonic conception of the guitar has changed the way the instrument has been perceived and played ever since. His recordings as a bandleader in early aughts on Verve Records were strikingly original releases that reshaped contemporary jazz in the 21st century. The Enemies of Energy (2000), The Next Step (2001), Heartcore (2003) and Deep Song (2005), would redefine the sound of jazz for a new era, deftly fusing jazz’s deep acoustic traditions with electronics, digital manipulation, programmed beats, and utterly modern harmonic and compositional structures that even today we can still only reference as ‘Rosenwinkelian’.
He continues this freethinking experimentalism with albums like Our Secret World (2010), in collaboration with the Orchestra de Jazz Matosinhos, the “contemporary classic” (Kelman, All About Jazz) Star of Jupiter (2012), and Caipi (2017), a Brazilian influenced album with Rosenwinkel taking on most of the instrumental and vocal duties.
He continues to reinvent jazz standards on Reflections (2008) and Angels Around (2020). Rosenwinkel’s most recent releases include Kurt Rosenwinkel Plays Piano (2021), an album of solo piano pieces that offers an intimate look at Rosenwinkel’s relationship to the piano and how it formed his compositional mind, and a collaboration with pianist Jean-Paul Brodbeck entitled The Chopin Project (2022) which finds him reimagining Chopin compositions with Brodbeck in a jazz context. His latest upcoming album, Berlin Baritone is a solo improvisational album on baritone guitar, and a uniquely intimate release, where listeners get to hear Rosenwinkel discover the timbral world of his newfound instrument with reverence and curiosity. Rosenwinkel’s prolific output has always retained his unique voice, and each release is a constellation in his singular musical universe, always expanding outwards, to reach for the next beautiful sound.
In addition to his genre-defining work as a bandleader, Rosenwinkel is also an accomplished sideman, with over 150 credits to his name. His first exposure to international touring was with Gary Burton, the legendary vibraphonist who hired him out of Berklee College in 1992. That same year he joined Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, and entered into a decade-long musical relationship with the drummer that helped usher in a new era in Motian’s already illustrious career.
These collaborative relationships, along with tours as Joe Henderson’s guitarist in 1997 established Rosenwinkel early in his career as a player who had the blessing of giants of the jazz world. His work with Brian Blade Fellowship, Mark Turner, Joshua Redman, Seamus Blake, Donald Fagen, and hosts of other jazz luminaries further cemented his star power.
Rosenwinkel’s success has also extended far beyond the world of jazz. He has been a member of the Crossroads Guitar Festival family since 2013, when he was personally invited by blues and rock legend Eric Clapton to perform and share the stage with him. The iconic guitarist who called Rosenwinkel “a genius” also featured on Rosenwinkel’s Caipi (2017), playing on the song “Little Dream”. Rosenwinkel’s collaboration with Q-Tip on The Renaissance (2008) and Kamaal the Abstract (2009) showed that Rosenwinkel’s playing had breadth that extended comfortably into hip-hop that has led to performances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with The Roots, and a collaboration with internet sensations DOMi and JD BECK.
In the winter of 2016, Rosenwinkel formed the independent music label Heartcore Records with the focused intention of signing and promoting a new generation of musicians whose exacting standards and creative passions equal his own. Over the last few years Heartcore has released a series of online masterclasses taught by Rosenwinkel that leads viewers through deep theoretical, compositional, and technical explorations of musical topics with humor and approachability. Heartcore Records has also allowed Rosenwinkel to flourish in another dimension of his ever-evolving musical practice as a record producer of other artists, while still consistently putting out his own music that blazes new pathways in the annals of modern jazz.