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Kurt Rosenwinkel Guitar Licks

Kurt Rosenwinkel studied in Berklee, but dropped out after 2 and a half years to go on tour with Gary Burton. With the help of Burton he soon became one of the most successful jazz guitarists of the East Coast.





He toured with people like Paul Motion, Joe Henderson and Joe Lovano and earned the praise of jazz guitarists like John Scofield and Pat Metheny. He featured on many albums with people like Gary Burton, Seamus Blake and Paul Motion.

In 1995 he won the Composer's Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000 he released the album Intuit, a collection of jazz standards.

Recommended listening: The Next Step

Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 1

This is a slippery lick in the style of Kurt’s playing, which uses the Aeolian mode over an Fm7 chord. Though many of us associate m7 chords with the Dorian sound in jazz, especially in a Modal context, sometimes using the Aeolian mode can be a secure choice when soloing over m7 chord vamps, as is the case with this lick.


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Kurt Rosenwinkel Lick 1

Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 2

In this lick, there is a strong sense of legato, which is a characteristic of Kurt’s playing, as well as a number of altered tones over the G7 in this line.

In bar 2, you will see #9, b9 and b13 intervals (Bb-Ab-Eb) used to create tension over a G7 chord. All of these tensions resolve during the same bar, Bb-Ab resolve to the tonic note G, and Eb resolves to the 5th (D) allowing each tension to resolve properly and musically during this phrase.


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Kurt Rosenwinkel Lick 2

Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 3

Another major key ii V I lick, this phrase stays diatonic throughout the entire phrase, though there is a sense of space and 4th intervals over Cmaj7, both of which are idiomatic of Kurt’s playing. Notice the D-G-D and D-A intervals over Cmaj7, which are diatonic 4ths from the C major scale, as these are commonly used intervals found in Kurt’s playing, as well as the playing of many popular modern jazz guitarists.


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Kurt Rosenwinkel Lick 3

Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 4

This lick features both the D Altered Scale (Eb melodic minor over D7) as well as the D whole tone scale over that same chord to build a Kurt-like improvised line. The whole tone scale is not as commonly used as the altered scale or 5th Mode of the harmonic minor scale when creating tensions over 7th chords, but it is a great way to bring tension to your lines by working the #4 and #5 intervals from this scale into your playing.


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Kurt Rosenwinkel Lick 4

Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 5

The lick uses a lot of different alterations, including #4, #5 and b9 intervals, as this line snakes it’s way up the fretboard over a D7 chord. Kurt is a master of long, snake-like lines that cover a lot of real estate on the fretboard, and this lick is an example of that side of Kurt’s improvisational style.


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Kurt Rosenwinkel Lick 5


If you are looking to expand your modern jazz guitar vocabulary, studying Kurt Rosenwinkel's playing is the way to go.


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