If you are not a jazz aficionado, no need to worry. It wonâ€™t spoil any of the fun of exploring Kurt Rosenwinkel’s newest release, Star of Jupiter. The opening sequence of this double-disc journey begins as â€œGamma Bandâ€ forwards you to the cosmic space of the album, and quickly the tempo picks up steam as Rosenwinkelâ€™s Moffa guitar pairs with Justin Faulkner’s hard-hitting drums blasting the album into another realm. The futuristic appeal of the four-piece ensemble resembles a jazz-bebop monster crossing time and space.
In contrast, the remainder of the first disc lends more to the traditional jazz sounds you may know and love. â€œWelcome Home,â€ â€œSomething, Sometime,â€ and â€œMr. Hopeâ€ allow the other members to add to the mix, especially keyboardist Aaron Parks. He is obviously a master at his craft and lends those keys in the form of piano, Rhodes, organ, Wurlitzer, and tack piano during these sessions recorded back in Mar 6-9, 2012. The next track, â€œHeavenly Bodies,â€ floats in the clouds but is accentuated with a darker, rising chorus that resonates with my personal tastes and is easily my favorite track on the first disc. To close the first disc, â€œHomage A’Mitchâ€has some enticing interplay between Rosenwinkel and Parks, the vocals gently persuading the track along the way. We also finally get to hear a little more in-depth from the man on bass, Eric Revis, and it feels nice.
After the enjoyment of the first disc, it was great to anticipate what the next disc would bring and if the question of why the sessions are separated into two discs would be answered. The second disc does not have the fireball opening of the first. Instead, â€œSpirit Kissâ€ takes your head back towards the clouds for soft and controlled playing that demonstrates Rosenwinkel’s ability to keep the track lively, even when it seems it could almost just stop at any time. The next track, kurt 1, quickly gets you moving along the with the upbeat drums and keys, and then the frontman comes along to hold onto some sustained notes pushing you upward. The band locks back in tight and sharp on the refrain before a controlled explosion of fluttering notes. This track has to be the best on the album.
Moving on through the final disc, we only have four tracks left on this adventure. â€œUnder It Allâ€ leaves the impression of echoing notes patiently placed over Faulkner’s cymbals. â€œA Shifting Designâ€ brings the tempo back up; the runs up and down for Kurt on this song must be really fun and difficult for the other guys in the band to follow, but they do it well. Rosenwinkel’s voice really comes out loud and clear on the track, too. â€œDÃ©jÃ vuâ€slowly rolls along, but never brings about anything exciting. The title track bids us farewell as Star of Jupiter has succeeded in taking this passenger on a jazzy roller coaster. The second disc is capped with the same wild, untamed energy of the opening track on the first disc.Â Â Â
The reason for two discs never materializes, other than it is a chance to display some fine cover art and geometric beauty. The pace and connections of the tracks make it feel more like an up-and-down ride, but the lack of cohesiveness truly lends to the feeling of an actual journey. Not knowing what to expect or being lulled into a false sense of security keeps you open and adept, ready to go wherever the journey may take you. It certainly was a fun ride, but now it is time to head back to reality.
Star of Jupiter is out now on Wommusic.