Kurt Rosenwinkel, Church of the Holy Trinity, June 22

No one knew what they were in for on Friday evening when Kurt Rosenwinkel took to the pulpit at the Church of the Holy Trinity alone with his guitar, surrounded by vintage amps and a mess of guitar pedals. The slight hum from the amps became much more prominent, nearing the end of the shy applause. Reflecting back, a few twangs of Rosenwinkel tuning somewhat symbolized the calm before the storm.

Almost immediately it was a sensory overload. As I watched him strum his guitar and sing into the microphone, I was still confused as to where the sounds were coming from. I quickly identified the long drones of his guitar underneath his high falsetto and his genius use of chord melodies. These were all happening at once, thanks to the modern magic of effect pedals on the ground near his feet. It seemed as though I was one of the few concerned with the technicalities of the performance as much of the audience had already fallen deep into the music.

As the evening progressed, Rosenwinkel seamlessly drifted back and forth between his interpretations of jazz standards and the familiar bossa nova. Genre aside, at the forefront of the evening was Rosenwinkel’s captivating voice and unique sense of harmony.

Later on in the show I was still quite taken back by this thick harmonic approach to solo guitar. Just as I thought Rosenwinkel hit a plateau, he kicked it up several notches with a very believable organ-like effect layered with the soothing grind of a chainsaw. This was a powerful rumble that I could feel vibrating up into the back of my chair. Eventually the piece faded into a whisper and a voice near me quietly questioned, “Is this what goes on in New York?”. Needless to say, it was a little bit different than what typically goes on within the community.

The highlight of the evening was Rosenwinkel’s encore, a rendition of Thelonious Monk’s ballad, “Ruby My Dear”. With his pedals and effects aside, Rosenwinkel’s clean guitar tones reverberated off the tall walls of the church and filled the room beautifully. Almost as if it were a conscious decision to remind us that all he needs is a guitar and an amp to engage an audience.

A beautiful night of music that I will carry with me for a long time.

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