Every year Bruce Eaton books some of the most interesting jazz musicians to come and play at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. They include full-blown giants and young sprouts, stars from all over the States and interesting variants from other countries, all of whom bring their own unique talents to bear on material that ranges from revamped Broadway chestnuts to sonic excursions from beyond the pale of commercial acceptance.
Sunday afternoon's concert showcased Kurt Rosenwinkel, a talented guitarist whose experiments with tone and pacing have marked him as someone worth listening to for years now. His first big gig was as a sideman for vibraphonist Gary Burton, filling the spot once held by Larry Coryell, Mick Goodrick, John Scofield and Pat Metheny. Then, after his stint with Burton's band, he held apprenticeships with drummer Paul Motian and saxophonist Joe Henderson in addition to numerous jobs as a sideman.
Rosenwinkel came to the show with bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Ted Poor in tow and played a number of standard show tunes, jazz classics and riffs deserving of wider recognition. Clohesy and Poor were a sympathetic rhythm section, having played together in guitarist Ben Monder's group, and Clohesy has played a fair number of gigs with Rosenwinkel. As a result, it was no real surprise that their familiarity with each other's playing made for some tight ensemble work.
During the hour and a half that the trio was onstage (not counting the well-deserved encore), they wound their way through half a dozen tunes, expanding upon themes and leading their listeners in lengthy, well-received excursions along a variety of sonic pathways. Bronislaw Kaper's "Invitation" and Thelonious Monk's "Ruby, My Dear" have received memorable treatments over the years, and Rosenwinkel's playing of these tunes was all the more remarkable for his ability to make the old new again.
While those tunes easily fit into the concept of Rosenwinkel's "Standards Trio," "Backup," composed by the late organ genius Larry Young, was an exercise in modal construction that was more at home with the guitarist's basic style.
Eaton mentioned in the band's introduction that most of the young jazz guitarists he's heard have, over the years, progressed from sounding like Metheny and Bill Frisell to emulating Rosenwinkel. That's not a bad role model, but there is still no substitute for the real thing. Kurt Rosenwinkel is definitely the real thing.
Art of Jazz Series With the Kurt Rosenwinkel Trio.
Sunday afternoon in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.