Frank Kohl : The Crossing Review
by Steven Miller
Guitarist Frank Kohl has released his fifth jazz offering The Crossing, in a succession of finely tuned jazz guitar offerings. This time around, Kohl focuses on an ensemble that features two guitars and a drumless ensemble sound, with Seattle heavyweight Steve LaSpina on bass, most notably recognized as a sideman for Stan Getz and Jim Hall. On guitar, Kohl is joined by guitarist John Stowell whose credits recording and or performing with Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton, Art Farmer, Conte Condoli, Herb Ellis, Bill Watrous, Mundell Lowe, George Cables, Billy Higgins, Billy Hart, Richie Cole, Paul Horn, Tom Harrell, and Don Thompson.
The Crossing is a welcomed mix of Kohl’s originals and recognizable nuggets from the jazz standard idiom. Kohl’s locution is based in a fingerstyle picking style, his warm and rounded tone couples well with Stowell’s coequally pairs. LaSpina creates a fluid rhythm while still maintaining an interactive dialogue with each guitarist.
The first sound of the album is the title track “The Crossing.” Kohl plays the medium tempo swing melody with a beautiful warm jazz box tone. LaSpina’s half time feel is buoyant and fills the space with his round tone. Stowell solos first, his lines are fluid and line up with the steady pulse of LaSpina’s quarter notes. Kohl’s accompanying is supportive but never overbearing or distracting. LaSpina’s nimble solo follows. His melodies are clear through the harmony as he explores the full range of his bass. Kohl takes the last solo. His use of space and development of melodic motifs is highly musical.
One of the standards on the date is “Yesterday’s,” taken at a medium swing tempo. Stowell states the melody, his embellishments are musical and fluid. LaSpina and Kohl supporting Stowell in a relaxed manner. LaSpina’s solo is first; his agility and sense of time are constant and musical. Kohl takes the 2nd solo; his warm tone builds his solo as he digs deep into the time feel to express his melodic explorations. Stowell is last to solo; his feel is maintained even while showing exceptional technical abilities, especially his chord voicings.
The Crossing at times is pensive, always beautiful, and symmetrically balanced in execution with masterful performances by all. Kohl is quoted as saying, “There’s so much in life, and in this world, that makes us feel so many things so deeply, and that’s where I want to be. That’s why I play music.” This spirit comes shining through on each tune that comprises the eloquence of The Crossing.