Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel takes The Next Step in his creative evolution on eight songs that exude several degrees of great jazz. He succeeds in topping the musical tastes presented on his debut release for the Verve label, The Enemies of Energy. Rosenwinkel is one of many young jazz musicians forging ahead into the new millennium with bold musical steps, and the compositions, all of which he wrote, represent the culmination of many life phases for him. First formed as a guitar-bass-drums trio in 1992, Rosenwinkel's band is now a quartet including Mark Turner on tenor saxophone, Ben Street on bass, and Jeff Ballard on drums, all excellent artists in their own right. All four musicians can be heard on The Enemies of Energy, and The Next Step is additional documentation of their relationship as a band. The CD opens with the melodic "Zhivago," a ballad inspired by the imagery of the motion picture Dr. Zhivago. "Minor Blues" is just that -- with an up-tempo groove and plenty of room for improvisation; it is especially memorable. Turner's saxophone workout on "A Shifting Design" is spurred on by the great drumming of Ballard and the alternate tuning of Rosenwinkel's guitar. This song opens with a pensive introduction and develops into a swinging, "shifting design" of notes, chords, and great basslines. Ballard is fascinatingly rhythmic, and uses percussive elements in a wealth of creative experiments. The title track spotlights Rosenwinkel on piano in harmony with Turner's sax and shaded by Ballard and Street's rhythmic finesse. This song has an ageless style, and Rosenwinkel's execution is filled with great improvisational ideas. This is an excellent listening experience that builds from start to finish.