Kurt Rosenwinkel: The WE! Interview

One of the attractions of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival is its ability to introduce you to new artists whose name and music is completely unknown to you – with pleasant surprises! A good example is Kurt Rosenwinkel, the American jazz guitarist, who appeared at the 2013 event, in a slot that featured guests Allan Holdsworth and Eric C.

Where’s Eric! caught up with Kurt following his recent appearance at Fasching Jazz Club in Stockholm, Sweden.

Eric as an influence:
I always loved Cream – Strange Brew is my jam! I love rock music and as far as I’m concerned Cream and Eric innovated rock music – without them there wouldn’t have been Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, The Kinks, you name it…

Meeting Eric:
His people called me and he came down to the Village Vanguard in New York with Russ Titlelman. We had a meet and he was super cool and really friendly. We kept in touch; we shared some music back and forth. One day a gift arrived from iTunes of 40 of his favorite songs, and then I reciprocated. There were some total gems, two things really became heavy rotation – Curtis Mayfield’s Let’s Not Forget and Peggy Lee’s The Folks Who Live On The Hill.

I sent him some Billie Holliday songs – that album on Decca with Deep Song and Crazy He Calls Me, some Lee Konitz with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins’ Deep Cuts.

Crossroads Guitar Festival:
One day Eric asked me if I’d be into doing Crossroads. One thing that’s really cool about Eric is I feel his enthusiasm for music and sharing music and to use his fame to turn people on to stuff he likes, whether its giving a platform to the whole blues catalogue, or to people that you don’t know, like myself.

I’d never played the Garden and had never even been there. I spent time visualising and imagining what songs of mine would speak in that setting so I felt good about the songs I chose and it was a thrill. There are so many things that were crazy about that day and so many opportunities to get freaked out or nervous but I didn’t want to waste my time on that, I just wanted to enjoy it.

Eric asked me who would I like to play with. So I said “I’d like to play with you and I’d like to play with Jeff Beck!” Jeff didn’t know me and he said “what are we gonna do, Charlie Parker?” (laughs). I would have loved nothing more to play his music but in the end he wanted to keep it simple for his own performances, so I said Allan Holdsworth. I knew Holdsworth before and had been to many of his shows. We’d never played together so that was a total thrill.

Receiving a Fender Stratocaster from Eric:
I had been thinking about playing a Stratocaster for a while but it’s such a different animal, so I had it on my mind to find one. I told Eric and he said “try this (one of his own), what do you think?” Next day I got a text from Eric saying “Ferrari grey or Porsche green?” and I was like WHAT!?! Apparently, when Eric buys a car he gets extra paint and sends it to Fender so they can make a guitar using that paint.

So I checked out the colours on the websites and chose the Ferrari. Later that day he gave it to me at the Garden and it was a special moment and he signed it for me.

The future for Kurt:
I’ve been working on different things for a long time, some major artistic steps coming up for albums I’ve been working on for a long time – some total new music coming along soon.

Learn more about Kurt at

Interview by Tony Edser. Photo courtesy Kurt Rosenwinkel.

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