Kurt Rosenwinkel and Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (OJM) – Our Secret World – Word of Mouth Music WOM003, 66:10 ****:
(Kurt Rosenwinkel – guitar, vocals (track 4); Carlos Azevedo – conductor and arranger (tracks 1, 4-6), piano (tracks 2, 6 & 7); Pedro Guedes – conductor (tracks 2, 3 & 7 ), arranger (track 7); Ohad Talmor – arranger (tracks 2 & 3); Abe Rábade – piano (tracks 1, 3-5); Demian Cabaud – double bass; Marcos Cavaleiro – drums; plus woodwinds, trombones & trumpets)
Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel reaches the next phase in his creative development on Our Secret World. Rosenwinkel is one of a number of evolving jazz musicians moving ahead into the new millennium with confident musical strides and this reinterpretation of seven of his compositions represents another chapter in his ongoing career.
Don’t assume to hear a trio or other sized jazz combo like those found on earlier Rosenwinkel releases. This time out, Rosenwinkel resists expectations and hooks up with the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (or OJM), the Portuguese big band which has previously collaborated with Lee Konitz, Chris Cheek and others. Any belief this 66-minute outing is a typical large ensemble excursion is blown away on the opening title track. Arranger Carlos Azevedo revamps the tune to emphasize woodwinds and horns but Rosenwinkel retains the vision of his original concept via his progressive guitar tone that features reverb and overdrive. When he soars upward during his solo, he attains an outer space characteristic, while the stacked saxophones, trumpets and trombones carry on a flowing grounded chorus.
Arranger Ohad Talmor expands the liberal and overlaid elements inherent on a nine-minute reappraisal of “The Cloister.” Rosenwinkel’s initial take – from his 2005 record Deep Song – used all of the coloring a sextet could provide. Here, the musical palette is tripled with the result that Rosenwinkel’s explorative guitar – which sometimes brings to mind Pat Metheny or John Scofield – is surrounded by abundant woodwinds that fashion an extensive audio landscape. There is a lyrical middle portion with guitar, bass, drums and piano where Rosenwinkel performs a stunning solo and when the full group reenters, Talmor’s arrangement offers new sections where melodic and harmonic qualities are magnified that formerly went unnoticed.
There are numerous other details that give distinct meanings to the pieces. Talmor’s thorough overhaul of “Path of the Heart” is one especially noteworthy effort. An uneasy drum pattern begins the lengthy number, followed by atmospheric, open-tuned guitar. The orchestra slowly builds up textures: a soft slice of a clarinet, stabs of sax, ethereal voice-like guitar effects and other components form a cinematic and otherworldly aura. Another memorable moment comes during “Dream of the Old,” when horns, guitar and voice play in unison to yield an imaginative use of timbre and depth unrealized until now on prior Rosenwinkel projects.
Throughout the program the OJM and Rosenwinkel strike a seamless balance that highlights Rosenwinkel’s melodic writing and stimulating guitar improvisations alongside the OJM’s comprehensive strength which proves the OJM can and does delve into sonic potentialities. Our Secret World is a venture that surpasses possibilities: anything could have gone awry with three arrangers, only three days for rehearsal and an additional three days for studio time, and the complexity of recording a big band to fit comfortably with a solo electric guitar. Everything works: Rosenwinkel’s material is given a fresh perspective and the particular instruments are presented with both wide-ranging and close and meticulous acoustic clarity.
1. Our Secret World
2. The Cloister
4. Dream of the Old
6. Use of Light
7. Path of the Heart
— Doug Simpson