Always a maverick, even when he was touring with Gary Burton straight out of the Berklee College of Music in the 1990s, guitarist/keyboardist Kurt Rosenwinkel has only deepened his individualistic sound over the past 20 years. That said, he's an individualist in service to the music, whose expressive identity was forged out of his ongoing pursuit of a musical ideal. On his previous effort, the atmospheric Star of Jupiter, Rosenwinkel's ideal was an expansive set of layered, modern creative jazz that touched upon the adroit '70s fusion of Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and Larry Coryell. For 2017's Caipi, his first album on his own Heartcore Records, Rosenwinkel expands this sound with a set of highly inventive Brazilian-influenced compositions that bring to mind the work of artists like Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, and Hermeto Pascoal. Although primarily known as a guitarist, here Rosenwinkel plays almost all of the instruments, often overdubbing bass, synth, and drums along with his fluid guitar and piano lines. Also, as on several of his past albums, Rosenwinkel sings; his voice is a charmingly unschooled yet passion-filled instrument perfectly suited to the Brazilian vibe. It's a combination that recalls his 2000 album, The Enemies of Energy. However, while Brazilian music was a minor flourish on that album, on Caipi it is the abiding aesthetic, informing almost all of the 11 tracks. The result is that while Caipi fits nicely next to his other albums, it feels more personal and spiritual. It's an utterly alluring, captivatingly realized production that recalls the late-'70s albums of Wayne Shorter when he brought together a cavalcade of his various loves for avant-garde jazz, electric fusion, Brazilian traditions, pop, Buddhism, art, and even ecology. Helping Rosenwinkel achieve this enlightened sound is a handful of guest vocalists, including Amanda Brecker (daughter of Eliane Elias and Randy Brecker), Pedro Martins, and others, who act as both lead and group vocalists at varying times throughout the album. The cinematically delivered "Casio Escher" finds Brecker and Martins supplying a gorgeous, wordless melody set against Rosenwinkel's fingerpicked guitar lines and Mark Turner's Gato Barbieri-esque saxophone. Similarly, cuts like the layered bossa nova-steeped title track and the fluid "Kama," with its dreamlike synths, Portuguese lyrics, and Giorgio Moroder-esque beat, sound something along the lines of Caetano Veloso backed by Stereolab. There's also a strong post-rock undercurrent to many of the songs on Caipi, with tracks like "Hold On" and "Little Dream" (which also happens to include a subtle guest spot from Eric Clapton) bringing to mind the influential '90s sound of artists like Tortoise, Sea and Cake, and Jim O'Rourke. In that sense, Caipi feels less specifically like a jazz, rock, or even Brazilian fusion album, and simply like a Kurt Rosenwinkel album -- otherwise unclassifiable. As Rosenwinkel sings on "Little Dream," "Always we have to go our way/There is no other way/We have to go our way/And I know that we can live/And be together, on...."
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar