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Kurt Rosenwinkel: The WE! Interview

Published // 26.Oct.15

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.