Scott Marks 3:09 p.m., June 23
Rosenwinkel Standards Trio Live at Athenaeum Jazz
Last night, the Athenaeum Jazz at the Studio concert series struck gold with the debut San Diego performance by the highly acclaimed guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and his Standards Trio, featuring veteran bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and young drum phenomenon Justin Faulkner.
Referring to Rosenwinkel as a virtuoso hardly seems adequate. He possesses an encyclopedic sense of harmony, and he must have played hundreds of intricate chord voicings in a maddeningly casual fashion.
The guitarist often comes off sounding more like a pianist--such is his ability to communicate with long strings of single-note passages, frequently ornamented by block-chords and inversions that traverse the entire geography of his fingerboard.
Bursting out of the gates with Clifford Brown's "Sandu," Rosenwinkel broke the blues down into prismatic dissections, playing with such relaxed confidence, you could actually see him trying to make mistakes by tossing in completely non-related material. In his hands, however, everything made sense, and swung.
He was ably supported in this pursuit by the atomic-clock-like precision of Okegwo's bass lines, and the clear ride cymbal articulation of Faulkner, who also turned in several intense drum solos.
Although he performed in front of a plethora of effects pedals, Rosenwinkel stuck for the most part, to tasteful use of multiple delays and reverbs, giving his sound a decidedly modern edge.
He opened Monk's "Ask Me Now," by rippling skeins of chromatic arpeggios that refracted the melody with blues hues and a cavernous legato that made them sound like they were chasing each other up the guitar neck and into the night.
Claire Fischer's "Pensativa," grooved with the cushion of Okegwo's throbbing bass and the rim-shot magic of Faulkner's chattering drum set, while the guitarist dropped a few jaws with his inventive organization of chord melody themed ideas.
Things hit a high with the disarmingly subtle reading of "If I Loved You." For the first time, Rosenwinkel's musicality and taste exceeded his gargantuan chops, and the result was sumptuous. Joe Henderson's "Serenity," closed the first set, and by then, the trio couldn't miss.
Buoyed by the joyous swing of Okegwo, Rosenwinkel ripped into the unusual form with controlled abandon--firing tangentially related lines that snaked around the changes, and, when the band distilled into a vamp, Faulkner ratcheted up the drama with a roiling solo.
Opening the second set with Monk's "Ruby My Dear," and Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty," the Standards Trio was hitting on all cylinders. By the time Rosenwinkel began to sketch out the theme to Bill Evans' "Turn Out The Stars," there seemed to be nothing the guitarist couldn't transform into his own personal statement.
After more than two hours of hard core jazz exploration, Rosenwinkel again turned to the writing of tenor saxophone legend Henderson to take the concert out, on an ecstatic run through "Inner Urge," which brought the capacity house to its feet.
Dan Atkinson, the force behind the Jazz at the Athenaeum series has been trying to make this concert happen for five years. Perseverance paid off in a big way for the San Diego jazz community, who reaped the rewards of his efforts.