Pairing’s Overwhelmed by the Shadows


The pairing of guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner matches a compatible duo of still developing, but talented young jazz artists. And one would expect their appearance at the Jazz Bakery this week to draw a young crowd--no doubt sprinkled with neophyte guitarists eager to check out some of Rosenwinkel’s unusual tunings.

Which was precisely the case Thursday night when a moderate-sized but enthusiastic audience cheered virtually everything played by the group (which also included drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Ben Street).

Despite the response, the set--much of which was devoted to material from Rosenwinkel’s new album, “The Next Step”--reflected the pluses and the minuses of the CD. On the positive side, the tonal qualities of the guitar-tenor saxophone blend were impressive, a warm but sinewy sound enhanced by Turner’s ease with his top register notes. Both players, in addition, delivered some thoughtful, well-articulated solos, often with virtuosic ease. And the rhythm team of Ballard and Street provided a simmering flow of energy, especially propelled by Ballard’s crisply thoughtful drumming.


That said, however, it was also impossible to ignore the generally dark qualities of much of the music. Although the material seemed well enough crafted, it also lacked character and identity, too often moving through space without commanding its surroundings. The only number that surfaced through the general sea of compositional anonymity was a piece by Turner energized by striking similarities with some of the fast-paced works associated with the musical partnership of saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. Played with fleet ease by Rosenwinkel and Turner, it generated one of Turner’s most impressive solos, a set of variations that leaped across the complete range of his instrument.

More of the same would have made for a considerably better set. And Rosenwinkel and Turner would do well to further seek the sort of material that inspires an expression of the full palette of their improvisational imaginations.


* The Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner Quartet at the Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave. Tonight and Sunday at 8 and 9:30 p.m., $20 admission. (310) 271-9039.