Titling his latest recording Rosebud, the remarkably inspired German guitarist Philipp van Endert properly gives light to the inability of properly discussing creative music. Much in the same way that writer Whitney Ballliett once poetically called jazz “the sound of surprise,” truly creative music really can’t be labeled or defined, formulaic or repeatable.
This melodic guitarist, overflowing with inventive lyricism, is a Kane-like player in the sense that he forges his own direction, regardless of convention. As the leader of his own successful label, van Endert is also like Welles’ Kane in the sense that he gets to dictate the terms of his own creativity: the only terms one knows, to paraphrase Kane himself. It’s certainly a direction worth following.
Rosebud reunites the guitarist’s trio consisting of bassist Andre Nendza and drummer Kurt Billker with such special guests as American saxist Rick Margitza and percussionist Christoph Hillmann. Each was part of the guitarist’s 2006 album Khilebor and the chemistry is intoxicating enough to warrant the additional exploration Rosebud presents.
The soundscape and interchange sometimes recalls saxophonist Joe Henderson’s superb 1993 So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles) with guitarist John Scofield, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Al Foster (all, like Margitza, associated with Miles during his electric years).
Miles isn’t on the program here, though. Philipp van Endert and company expound startlingly well upon Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” and formidably on Michel Legrand’s “You Must Believe in Spring,” best known through its interpretation by former Miles sideman Bill Evans (all without Margitza) as well as a fascinating program of the guitarist’s sinewy originals including “Phily Ray and the Notfinders” and the title track (with the leader on acoustic guitar).
There’s something remarkably sage about Philipp van Endert’s musicianship and leadership throughout. It suggests a more seasoned, well-travelled player who has fashioned all the fads and a career’s worth of ups and downs. Only active since the mid-nineties, the guitarist has gone the distance to arrive at a place that’s all his own. His playing has a strong personality that not only escapes comparison to better-known jazz guitar heroes but fires up his associates to perform with complimentary magnificence.
Even Margitza sounds more intimately personal here than he has on other recordings, even those under his own name. He shines particularly well on the cool funk of “Landing Grounds” and Nendza’s terrific “Overheated.” Margitza and the guitarist make for an especially heady brew, notably on the set’s opening “Reguengo” and closing “Savina.”
Joy that it is, Rosebud, like its probable namesake, is summed up better in appreciation than understanding. It’s meant to be experienced and enjoyed and it succeeds.