Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel at Smoke Jazz Club: February 11th, 2023 Gig Review

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When I first got into Jazz back in the late 70’s, I remember – as a young man living in Montreal, Canada who regularly read the Village Voice – being quite envious of New Yorkers because they could walk out of their homes and within a relatively short period of time, be sitting in one of the many Jazz venues that the city had to offer watching some of the greatest musicians on the planet playing their hearts out. Well, fast forward forty some years and thanks to the Internet, I can now sit on my couch in the comfort of my living room and watch – in real time – some of the greatest musicians on the planet playing their hearts out!

Case in point was on February 11, 2023 as I watched two of the greatest Jazz Guitarists on the scene today – Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel – tear it up during the 9PM set from NYC’s Smoke Jazz Club. Apart from this week’s Smoke dates – February 9th to the 12th – I’m not sure if Bernstein and Rosenwinkel had ever played together before professionally, but if they never did, you couldn’t tell*.

From the first tune of the set – Bronisław Kaper’s “Invitation” – to the last tune of the set- a standard Jazz Blues – Rosenwinkel and Bernstein showcased their distinctive voices on guitar – whether comping or improvising – nicely with very little stylistic divide. Bernstein’s fat, round tone filled the room as his more modern approach to both harmony and melody honored those who came before him while Rosenwinkel’s expressive sing-song quality – fueled by a few tone altering effects – did the same, but in a more contemporary fashion. It was obvious though that both players had shared the same lineage and musical vocabulary, putting in the work to reach a high level of musical insight and integrity, which was obviously quite prevalent throughout the performance.

Apart from the above mentioned tunes, Bernstein and Rosenwinkel – along with Bassist Alexander Claffy and Drummer Joe Farnsworth – tore up the charts on Horace Silver’s “Peace”, John Lewis’s “Milestones” and Mal Waldron’s beautiful “Soul Eyes” as all concerned brought their A-Game to a very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd including a few top-shelf guitarists in the audience who must have enjoyed themselves immensely 🙂

Now, while I consider the whole set to be one huge highlight, there were more than a few moments that stood out. Three such moments were during “Soul Eyes” when Rosenwinkel opened up the tune with a gorgeous chordal intro that matched the essence of the song’s title. Bernstein’s affecting solo also dug deep into the soul catalog of feel and taste. Then if all that wasn’t enough, Bernstein and Rosenwinkel soloed simultaneously, bringing the tune into another musical space altogether. Waldron and Coltrane would be proud!

Other stand-out moments for me were when Bernstein and Rosenwinkel traded 4’s and then 2’s – and sometimes 1’s – with Farnsworth on “Invitation” and “Milestones”. Great stuff and some seriously fun playing from all! Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Farnsworth’s drum solo on “Milestones” which resulted in an explosive round of applause from the audience. Claffy also got to shine on a few numbers as he demonstrated taste, tone and thoughtfulness during his solo spots. Definitely a rhythm section you want in your corner!

Now, in all honesty, with a group of players such as this, you can’t go wrong. If you are familiar with either of these Jazz Guitar Greats, then you pretty much know what you’ll be in for beforehand. The delight though is wondering – and hearing – how they balance each other while still maintaining their own individual approaches. Not an easy task given their respective stylistic differences but one that they handled quite nicely. Now guys…can we get an album from you all 🙂

Kudos should also go out to Smoke Jazz Club for the great quality – both audio and video – of their live stream. Everything went off without a hitch and it was great to see this performance in all its glory. Almost like being there but without the cost of travel! 🙂 My only slight criticism is that I wished the set was longer as it came in at a little over an hour. But at three sets a night I guess they did what they had to do to not tire out the players.

All in all this was a wonderful musical event and I am very glad to be in an age where the music can come to me. I realize there is no replacing the live experience but this definitely comes in at a close second.

Rosenwinkel, Claffy, Farnsworth and Bernstein

If you get a chance to see these two perform together again, please do so.

Oh…and in case you are wondering about the guitar that Mr. Rosenwinkel is playing – like I was – Here’s what Rosenwinkel had to say when asked: “It’s a new model from Italian luthier Dominico Moffa. “ – Kurt

Very cool!

*Turns out they have played together in the past – Thank you Google! 🙂

Please consider spreading the word about Peter, Kurt and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this review amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂

If you would like to support all the work I do on Jazz Guitar Life, please consider buying me a coffee or visiting the Jazz Guitar Life sponsors. Thank you and your patronage is greatly appreciated regardless if you buy me a coffee or not 🙂

About Lyle Robinson 338 Articles
Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/publisher and editor of Jazz Guitar Life, an online magazine dedicated to the Jazz Guitar and its community of fine players worldwide.

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