Will this be the quietest winter ever? I’m counting on it. After four brutal and snowy winters in Upstate New York, I’m looking forward to the next few rainy and dark weeks in the Pacific Northwest. Normally the milder–but still very wet weather–isn’t as conducive to staying indoors and hibernating as it was in the land where forty-inch snowstorms were the norm, but I’ll say one thing: Portlanders know how to hibernate better than anyone. They’re the best-read people in the US, and winter just means another excuse to load up at Powell’s and curl up and read and hopefully listen to music as well. That’s where Frank Kohl and his serene new album Solitude enters the scene.
Solo jazz guitar can be a either/or proposition, whether or not it’s plugged in. It can soothe, or it can stick you along the edge of an abyss. Frank Kohl understands this, which is perhaps why he named this collection of originals and covers (from Ellington, Kern, Arlen and Oscar Peterson) something like Solitude. Kohl has an easy, relaxed way of playing even though his finger work can be incredibly fast at times. Kohl has created that perfect sense of calm that can only be conjured by a lone musician, sitting in the corner of a room full of quiet, thoughtful and appreciative people.
You know, the kind of people you’re missing right now.
You’ve been to this happy spot a number of times before, and it always gives you that feeling of never wanting to leave that room, that place, with those people. Perhaps that’s what makes Solitude such a timely release, and not just for the season we’re entering. That room full of people sipping coffee and listening to a master guitarist play and improvise–well, that’s starting to feel like a long time ago. Frank Kohl hasn’t confirmed anything about the album’s timing, or the relevance of its title–the liner notes simply speak to this veteran performer’s wish to finally record a solo guitar album.
But if Solitude is about anything, it’s about the time we find ourselves in, right here and now, in this state of limbo. So curl up with a good book or three, open up all the windows, light a fire and lose yourself in the sound of one beautiful guitar, plucked by a master.