Kurt Rosenwinkel, Caipi (RAZDAZ Records)
From his emergence in the 1990s, Rosenwinkel has been a relaxed guitar improviser even when negotiating the complex pieces that make him one of the most interesting composers at work today. He retains his leisurely approach to soloing in this collection, which is redolent with feelings and flavors of modern Brazilian music.
Rosenwinkel’s guitar solo on “Chromatic B” is a highlight. On that piece and several others he also plays piano, bass, drums, synthesizer and electric keyboard—and sings. In comparison with the singing of Pedro Martins, who is captivating in the title song, vocal performance is not Rosenwinkel’s strong suit. Martins is also impressive in “Little b” and “Summer Song” (Rosenwinkel’s composition, not Dave Brubeck’s piece with the same title). Eric Clapton sits in as a guitar soloist on Rosenwinkel’s “Little Dream.” Among several other guests, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner stands out on “Casio Escher,” as does vocalist Amanda Brecker. Chris Weisman’s liner notes do not explain the meaning of “Casio Escher,” or of “Casio Vanguard,” “Little b” or “Caipi,” the name of the album. The closest Portuguese word I’ve been able to find is “Caipirinha,” a Brazilian sugar cane brandy.
But what’s in a name? The music is what matters, and this Rosenwinkel album has substance as well as lighthearted consistency. The intriguing eccentricities of his adaptations, and his too-few guitar solos, honor the harmonic and rhythmic subtleties that came out of Brazil half a century ago and captivated the world.
Fanny Gunnarsson Quartet, Mirrors Havtorn Records
The Swedish pianist and singer Fanny Gunnarsson of the band We Float, also leads her own quartet. Mirrors features Ms. Gunnarsson’s vocals on her original songs, performed in flawless English. “Airplane,” as an example, is a love song consisting of a vocal chorus by Ms. Gunnarsson that, in a minimalist achievement, tells a complete story. At the piano she then pursues an emphatic duet with the increasingly impressive soprano saxophonist Karolina Almgren.
Ms. Almgren’s playing throughout has tonal and harmonic depth and an affecting Scandinavian melancholy. She is notably moving on the concluding slow pieces “For Kerstin” and “Shine” (not the 1910 popular song, but a new one by Ms. Gunnarson). As in We Float, the bassist and drummer are Kristian Rimshult and Hannes Olbers. The title tune begins as a peaceful duet with Ms. Gunnarsson’s piano and Ms. Almgren’s saxophone. Rumshult and Olbers enter so quietly as to be nearly unnoticeable, but the music swells into a sort of chorale with Ms. Gunnarsson’s overdubbed voice powerful in two registers (or is it three?) before the song ends as tranquil as it began.
This is an evolving band whose development is worth following.
(Mirrors appears to be available in the US only as a download. Havtorn Records indicates that physical copies may be ordered by sending an email message here.