Kurt Rosenwinkel Interview, Funchal

By Filipe Freitas

Kurt Rosenwinkel, 2017 ©Clara Pereira

Kurt Rosenwinkel, 2017 ©Clara Pereira



Name: Kurt Rosenwinkel
Instrument: guitar
Style: contemporary jazz
Album Highlights: The Next Step (Verve, 2001), Star of Jupiter (Wommusic, 2012), Caipi (Heartcore Records, 2017)








What was your overall perception of Funchal Jazz? Did you enjoy playing here?
What a great exotic destination for us on tour! This part of being a touring musician is the best part, when you can come to a place like this and have a few days to relax and to discover the people and the place. It’s so very beautiful, I wish I had more time to discover things on the island but we have to get back to work. The festival… really great vibe, positive, energetic, happy vibe, and very well done and organized. All the technical aspects were just perfect and the level of professionalism in the infrastructure of the festival was really top quality. So, it makes it really easy to do our jobs the best way we can and to enjoy it, at the same time there’s no troubles or stress.

How are people reacting to your sudden change of style? How do you feel it?
We’ve been having a tremendously positive response to the music. I just feel that people are being able to get into the music and let it flow. I was prepared for some people preferring what I was doing before, but I think the overwhelming response is very positive. I feel very comfortable and very strong with the band and this material. It’s exciting to me, and I know I’m doing the right thing.

Do you have anything to say to those who miss your previous style?
All of this music has been in my mind and in my life for the while I was doing my other albums, so this is not new for me. It’s always been there. I think that once the shock of the difference wears off, you’ll hear all the same elements, sound, and depth as before. It has everything I’ve always done and more. It’s more fully myself and I think anybody could enjoy it, including people who like my ‘old’ music (laughs).

Any other projects at the moment besides Caipi? 
I’m playing with Human Feel, a group I have for almost 30 years with Chris Speed, Andrew D’Angelo, and Jim Black. We play in August in Lisbon. A new record by Human Feel is coming out soon, but I’m not sure if on my label, Heartcore Records. Pedro Martins’ new album, in which I play, will come out next on Heartcore. It’s called Vox and it’s really astounding. I have other artists recording too, and we’re just building up the label and creating a brand and connectedness from great music all around the world, wherever we find it, and regardless the genre. At the root, all traditions meet. That’s the idea of Heartcore, if it has heart and passion, quality, commitment to excellence, depth, and truth, that’s Heartcore!

A few months ago I’ve interviewed David Binney, who was very excited about a possible collaboration with you in a future project that would also include Pedro Martins and Louis Cole. Do you confirm?
Good to hear that! I’m excited too and it’s going to happen because it’s been meaning to happen for a long time. I love Dave’s music and his playing, and I love him as a person. The orbits are working out by themselves so we can land on the same planet and have a jam.

You played a lot of instruments on Caipi. What would be your second choice after the guitar?
Piano. It’s really my mother instrument and the first I’ve played. There was a moment, when I was 18, that I had to decide whether to be a pianist or a guitarist. I chose guitar because I was better at it and spent more time working on it.  But I love playing the bass, drums, and percussion. It was really fun to go to a store and buy all these percussive instruments and then go home and learn how to shake an egg. It’s not as easy as it looks. I did a lot of investigation and experimentation on it.

Why it took you so long to get these tunes out since you wrote them a long time ago?
Even though the music was pretty much finished, I was waiting for missing parts of the puzzle. It was a waiting strategy and Pedro was an important piece to complete that puzzle. Also, the development followed a very natural progression with these songs forming themselves and also me going around the world and doing my thing and then coming home again and being able to work on them again. It was a very slow moving process but always kept gradually moving forward.

You’re living in Berlin. What were the reasons for this choice?
They offered me a professorship there in 2007. The city hadn’t been in my mind until then. But when I went to visit, I fell in love with the city and I accepted it.

Which main differences do you see between the American and European jazz scenes? Do you think the American scene is more vibrant?
I wouldn’t say that. I mean, New York is special and unique in the whole world. Also, Philly and Boston have great jazz traditions. But there are also thriving scenes in Europe too like Copenhagen, Berlin, London, and Amsterdam. There’s a lot going on in those places.

What was the first jazz record you fell in love with?
J.J. Johnson’s Concepts In Blue.

Which other styles do you listen to besides jazz?
Hip hop and rap. 

Can you recommend some artists?
Q-Tip and The Notorious B.I.G.

Can you name two persons who have marked you the most as a musician?
John Coltrane and Bud Powell.

Is there any musician whom you’ve never collaborated with but you’d like to?
Bobby Hutcherson. When I thought about the personnel to record The Next Step album, Bobby Hutcherson was on my list to play vibes. I asked Verve if I could get him on the album, but they’ve said no.

If not a musician what would you have been?
A writer.