Once upon a time, ‘Eric Clapton is God’ was painted across a bridge in London, lauded almost universally as the greatest guitarist that Britain had produced. Of course, since that moment of adulated graffiti, Clapton’s stock has waned with numerous controversial statements made both on and off the stage.
However, when he speaks about the instrument, it’s impossible for music fans not to listen. Having rubbed shoulders with the great and good of contemporary icons, the likes of Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, there’s one man that Clapton has called a “genius” with the guitar strapped around him.
Clapton’s voice on matters swirling around the contemporary sphere has become easier to ignore, especially considering his racist outburst in the 1970s and his recent polarising view on topics like Covid vaccinations. On the other hand, few people are more equipped to speak about what makes a great guitarist.
Clapton lit up London with a series of enthralling displays that made him the talk of the town in the late ’60s, elevating him to the status of rock and roll pioneer alongside his Cream bandmates. Clapton would then go on to enjoy more success with Blind Faith before taking flight on a wildly prosperous solo career, one which further confirmed his unchallenged ability with the guitar.
The former Yardbirds man has always attempted to keep his ear to the ground when it comes to more recent talent. Kurt Rosenwinkel, an artist that made his move into music in the early 1990s, has impressed Clapton to such a degree that he somewhat lavishly labelled him a “genius”. When it comes to jazz, Rosenwinkel is seen as one of the most extraordinary modern talents, and he is playing his part to keep the heartbeat of the genre pumping.
Rosenwinkel has worked with some of the most revered names in jazz and even made a record with the celebrated rapper Q-Tip. Additionally, he has since emerged as an accomplished bandleader himself. While he is not the most notable name able to fill stadium-sized venues, that doesn’t take anything away from his immense talent, and Clapton has nothing but superlatives to say about him.
“Oh yeah! God, yeah. One of my heroes is Kurt Russell. [Laughs] What!? Not Kurt Russell, Kurt Rosenwinkel,” Clapton told Uncut in 2015. “He’s a jazz guitar player. Very fluid. He’s a genius, he really is, and a lovely man. He has the ability to play directly what he hears in his head. I can’t do that.”
Adding: “I go to the same old phraseology, or I have to work things out in advance. He’s a proper jazz musician, and I’m in awe of that. He’s got up to play with me a couple of times, we’ve played a blues, or ‘Cocaine’, and he just flies like a bird. I think, man, that’s a wonderful thing to be able to do.”
As praise goes, it doesn’t usually get higher than that. However, Rosenwinkel divulged his opinion about Clapton in 2021, and he seemingly holds his peer in even higher regard, if that was even possible.
“We have a beautiful relationship,” Rosenwinkel reflected in an interview with Hyper Locrian about Clapton. “Eric is a good friend, he has really helped us a lot. He has helped me with ‘Caipi’, he has been very supportive of the things we are doing with Heartcore Records. He’s such a down to earth guy. We’re always in touch, texting each other, sending music back and forth.
“He has a great creative spirit. A very kind, generous man. We’re seeing what we can do together. We are talking about recording a duo album together. There’s great potential to collaborate. He’s interested in what I’m interested in: Fostering creative output from where you can find it.”
While that collaborative album is yet to come to light, here’s hoping that it happens, maybe just so that Clapton takes a breather from commenting on current news. Instead, one can hope he gets back to surrounding himself with equally mercurial musicians and stirring up magic that most people could only ever dream of achieving.