Rosenwinkel attended the Berklee College of Music for two and a half years before leaving in his junior year to tour withGary Burton, the dean of the school at the time. Subsequently, Rosenwinkel moved to Brooklyn, where began performing with Human Feel, Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, Joe Henderson Group, and the Brian Blade Fellowship. During that time he began using a Lavalier lapel microphone fed into his guitar amplifier  that blends his vocalizing with his guitar –much like George Benson, and Pat Metheny– and has become a trademark of his sound, both live and in the studio.
In 1995 he won the Composer’s Award from the National Endowment for the Arts and was signed by Verve Records. Since then, he has played and recorded as both a leader and sideman with Mark Turner, Brad Mehldau, Joel Frahm, and Brian Blade, as well as many others. During Rosenwinkel’s tenure with Verve he collaborated with Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, who co-produced his studio album Heartcore that features bassist Ben Street, drummer Jeff Ballard, and saxophonist Mark Turner. He would further collaborate with Q-Tip, performing guitar on the latter’s albums The Renaissance and Kamaal/The Abstract.
Rosenwinkel has since released several albums. In 2008 The Remedy – Live at the Village Vanguard was released, featuring saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Eric Harland. On November 10, 2009, Rosenwinkel released a trio recording, Standards Trio: Reflections, which features bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Eric Harland. On September 7, 2010, Rosenwinkel released his ninth album as a leader, entitled Kurt Rosenwinkel & OJM: Our Secret World and featuring OJM an 18-piece big band from Porto, Portugal. His latest release Stars of Jupiter features pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner.
Originally from Philadelphia, Rosenwinkel currently resides in Berlin, Germany. He has two sons and is on the faculty at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler.
Rosenwinkel is known for his distinct sound and style of improvisation. His influences include John Coltrane, Pat Metheny,Allan Holdsworth, Tal Farlow, George Van Eps, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Alex Lifeson, and Jimmy Page, among others
Rosenwinkel uses a wide variety of effects units, each with a specific function and effect on the guitar’s sound. As of May 2013 he has been seen using the following: Neunaber WET Stereo Reverb, Strymon Timeline, Strymon Mobius, Digitech Vocalist, Thegigrig HumDinger, Rockett Allan Holdsworth, Empress ParaEQ.
Previously he has used many pedals including: Pro Co RAT distortion, TC Electronic Nova Reverb, Lehle D. Loop Effect-loop/Switcher, Strymon Blue Sky Reverb, Strymon El Capistan dTApe Echo, Malekko Echo 600 Dark, Old World Audio 1960 Compressor, Electro-Harmonix HOG Polyphonic Guitar Synthesizer, Eventide TimeFactor Delay, Xotic X-Blender Effects Loops, Empress Tremolo, Lehle Parallel line mixer, TC Electronic SCF stereo chorus flanger, and Boss Corporation OC-3 octave, among others.
Most often seen playing his D’Angelico New Yorker semi-hollow guitar, he also plays a Sadowsky semi-hollow, a cherry red Gibson ES-335, and more recently two custom guitars made for him by Italian master luthier Domenico Moffa
- 1996 – Kurt Rosenwinkel Trio –East Coast Love Affair – (Fresh Sound New Talent)
- 1998 – Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet –Intuit – (Criss Cross)
- Unreleased – Kurt Rosenwinkel –Under It All
- 2000 – Kurt Rosenwinkel –The Enemies of Energy – (Verve Records)
- 2001 – Kurt Rosenwinkel –The Next Step – (Verve Records)
- 2002 – Jakob Dinesen / Kurt Rosenwinkel –Everything Will Be Alright – (Verve Records)
- 2003 – Kurt Rosenwinkel –Heartcore – (Verve Records)
- 2005 – Kurt Rosenwinkel –Deep Song – (Verve Records)
- 2008 – Kurt Rosenwinkel –The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard – (Wommusic)
- 2009 – Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio –Reflections – (Wommusic)
- 2010 – Kurt Rosenwinkel & OJM –Our Secret World – (Wommusic)
- 2012 – Kurt Rosenwinkel –Star of Jupiter – (Wommusic)