Frank Kohl Quartet
Pony Boy Records (PB5017-2)
“Invisible Man” is Frank Kohl’s third album as a leader. More of a gigging guitarist, Kohl is practically a fixture in two Jazz cities—New York and Seattle. His three albums are spaced widely apart in 1982, 2008 and 2015 with performing filling the intervening years.
Kohn graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1976 with honors. While there, he had been influenced by teachers John Scofield, Pat Metheny and Gary Burton. Their influence shines through in Kohl’s dedication to excellence.
Both on “Invisible Man” and on 2008’s “Coast to Coast,” Kohl is accompanied by his brother, Tom Kohl. With Steve LaSpina on bass and Jon Doty on drums, this quartet swings and succeeds on a track list of Frank Kohl originals and three classic covers.
The album begins with the title track, “Invisible Man.” It begins with a cool stroll and the beautiful missing of Greg Williamson and mastering by Ross Nyberg present a sharp and crisp recording of this fine Kohl original.
Tom’s piano is razor sharp and sets off well over against Frank’s guitar licks. LaSpina’s bass and Doty’s drums are exactly what the piece requires, leaving no doubt that what follows is worthy of anticipation.
“In Your Arms” is a classy Jazz nocturne. The waltzing rhythm section and cozy piano are warm and lush. The melody is memorable and the chord changes are subtle and emotional. This song is a grabber.
It is followed by “Born Again.” This is more of a joyful reverie than a plodding theological line. The thoughtful piano lead is certainly invigorating—LaSpina’s bass solo is absolutely soulful, followed by Doty’s oft-interrupted drum solo which is snappy and fun.
Through it all, however, Frank’s guitar work is melodic and exciting. The piece is written extraordinarily well. “Falling Sky” is a sweet taste of samba with wonderful rhythms by LaSpina and Doty, a great pairing.
The opening locked-lines of Frank and Tom are cool and then split apart as they switch leads. It is one hot composition that wrangles fun tempos and changes. The track ends as it began, with the unified lines of the brothers atop those great rhythms.
The Rodgers and Hart standard, “My Funny Valentine,” is arranged beautifully. It is an up-tempo recreation and a polar opposite to, say, Chet Baker’s version. The emphasis is more on “funny” than “valentine.” I like it. But that gorgeous melody—no matter what the tempo or key—is unmistakable and oh-so-enthralling. In the conclusion, the guitar tempo’s bottom falls out as the band keeps swinging.
“Round About” is another Frank Kohl original. LaSpina has an early bass solo that plays well. Frank’s guitar is encased in splendid accompaniment by the other artists.
One becomes as impressed with Frank Kohl’s composing as with his musicianship—and that is saying something.
The Wood and Mellin classic, “My One and Only Love,” is given a lovely treatment by this quartet. Frank handles the material delicatelky and lovingly.
By this point, I realized that Frank’s playing was so clean and precise that I had not once been distracted from the music by the musician. Indeed all of the artists play so appropriately and allow such room for each other that nothing has served to distract. The music continues to shine through on the merits of the music itself.
“Alone Together” (Schwartz and Dietz) closes the album. This was a well-chosen piece for the unique talents of this quartet. The leads and solos are bright and colorful. All of the stringed instruments get a spotlight and a chance to steal the show (which they take) with the odd and wonderful result that, once again, the equanimity of the band balances everything and the music itself is enhanced.The conclusion is satisfying.
“Invisible Man” renders Frank Kohl anything but invisible. In his third album over the space of 33 years, he is set to be well-recognized for his splendid composition and artistry. His talent and craftsmanship make him imminently worthy of notoriety. His focus on the music instead of the musician makes him a cherished artist.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
Visit Frank Kohl’s website at: http://frankkohl.com/
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