Kurt & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

IMG_0696This week has been a week of dynamic beauty – and another career milestone for Kurt Rosenwinkel. There’s little debate that the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is one of the finest big band’s in the world today, and led by legendary trumpeter Wynton Marsalis certainly the most high profile. So it is a special honor to not only be featured as a guest soloist, but to also have your original music arranged by them.

Add to that performances to a sold out house 2 nights in a row in the gorgeous Rose Theater located at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, NYC – the capital of jazz – with yourself being the lead soloist, and you can imagine the level of excitement and gratitude Kurt feels in being invited to do this. To top it off he’s on a double-bill with his high school mate and fellow Philly native – Christian McBride. In fact you can catch the 2 of them in an all-Philadelphia high school jazz ensemble from 1987 by clicking here.

The week started Tuesday May 20 at 2:30pm (for Kurt) with rehearsals at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and they did rehearsal #2 the following day and a run through of the show on Thursday. Kurt has done a fair bit of work with big bands over the years, not least his recording and live performances with Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (documented on the recording entitled “Our Secret World“), as well as performances with the Concertgebouw Jazz Orchestra from Amsterdam & the Airmen of Note in Washington DC (and several others), so he felt prepared for challenge of stepping in front of a big band and make his sound project inside such a huge sound.  However, it is hard to be entirely prepared for a big band of the power and dynamic range of JLCO, as well as their ability to quickly absorb music and arrangements at an astounding rate, which of course speaks to the immense level of talent on each chair in the band. And one of the things that really separates JLCO from all other big bands is the sheer amount of projects & music that they deal with – all of it of vastly different style and nature. JLCO’s drummer Ali Jackson told us they dealt with something like 180 different charts in just a couple of weeks of touring.


Ali and Kurt have a very special shared history of course. They both belong to a generation of musicians that came through Small’s Jazz Club in NYC in the 90ties, and basically honed their craft there night after night in a community that also counted people like Brad Mehldau, Mark Turner, Jeff Ballard, Ben Street – and since then countless others. A community that it is probably safe to say redefined the sound of jazz for the 21st century. And when Kurt decided on a collaborative project leading to his album entitled “Deep Song” (also featuring Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman + Larry Grenadier) back in 2004, he was very excited about being able to add Ali to this project.

Ali played on the 2004 summer jazz festival tour with Kurt, Redman, Mehldau & Grenadier,  and plays drums on most of “Deep Song” (drummer Jeff Ballard played on a couple of the tracks). Deep Song was recorded in August about 2 weeks after the tour finished and was released in March 2005, and was Kurt’s final album for Verve Records. Several of the songs this week are from that very album: “Synthetics”, “Brooklyn Sometimes” and “The Next Step” (“The Next Step” is of course also the title track from his 2001 Verve release; “Synthetics” was first heard on Kurt’s album “Enemies of Energy”, and “Brooklyn Sometimes” had been previously recorded on an album that was never released).


It’s been an immense experience for Kurt & his team, and hopefully also for the audiences that already caught them yesterday. This sort of thing doesn’t happen everyday, so we hope you will join us for the final show tonight, however you can, and look forward to hearing your comments! Special thanks goes out to Ali Jackson, Wynton Marsalis, the arrangers of Kurt’s music (Ali Jackson did “Brooklyn Sometimes”, “A Life Unfolds” & “The Next Step”, Vincent Gardner did “Deja Vu”, Ted Nash did “Synthetics” and Sherman Irby did “A Shifting Design”), and to all of JLCO + the superb staff at Jazz at Lincoln Center!

If you happen to be in NYC tonight then please come join Kurt (& Christian McBride) & JLCO for the final night – and if you are not in NYC then you can still catch the show as a live web stream by clicking here and on Sirius XM radio.

Says Kurt Rosenwinkel: “It is an enormous honor to be asked to be a guest artist with the JLCO, and It has been an inspiration to work with this tremendous band and hear their perspectives on my music. We have had a great week and its been so much fun getting to know everyone personally and musically, its a band with so much soul, spirit and humor, and the highest level of musicianship. I feel super grateful and super blessed to have had this experience. YES!!”

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