Tom Kohl, a pianist, crafts stories out of jazz on his new album, “Dances with the Sun.” The standout songs on the release are “Tymus” and “Apricots.” The album will be available for purchase July 14, 2017.
Tom Kohl’s approach to jazz
Kohl’s piano playing began when family friends gifted the then-11 year-old a grand piano. Kohl quickly set about teaching himself to play. His musical horizons were broadened again when his brother, jazz guitarist Frank Kohl, gave him a copy of the album, “Facing You,” by Keith Jarrett.
His teen years were marked by trips into New York City to see Jarrett, Chick Corea and other greats play. During his college years, Kohl studied with a variety of musicians, including a gospel musician, and saxophonists Archie Shepp and Marion Brown.
Since 1993, Kohl has been featured on recordings as a bandleader. He continues to focus on the piano and his latest CD allows him to showcase his instrument. Kohl’s approach is not a selfish one, as all the parts work together without overshadowing each other.
Kohl’s band consists of piano, two basses, and drums, an innovative approach to modern jazz. Modern jazz musicians have a variety of combinations at their disposal to help them make their work come to life. That Kohl has stepped away from traditional combinations speak volumes about his willingness to try new things.
The song begins without preamble. The song sounds as though the sound is trailing itself in a circle. The bright piano notes bump congenially against the bubbling nonchalance of the base. It is an engaging tune that jazz fans would appreciate. Especially nice are the bass runs—the deep notes and their energy adds a layer of complexity to the song that takes it to the proverbial next level.
The two ends of the piano play different rhythms. This is a short song whose bright notes and overall pleasant character work to call to mind the temporality of summer. While the higher notes create a recitative of sorts, the lower notes stay in their zone, until toward the end, when the deep bass notes indicate that the song, and perhaps the season, are at their end. The resolution is satisfying. Kohl plays alone here, and it works. The rhythm and melody are both bittersweet and bright, and one of the advantages to showcasing the piano by itself, the instrument does not have to compete. Not that Kohl and his bandmates cannot achieve a good mix. It is, however, sometimes nice to hear a bandleader explore his or her instrument more fully, even in the context of a short song.
“Apricots” and all the songs on “Dances with the Sun,” feel as though they are part of a larger story. Listeners have to use their imaginations, but with bright piano work, innovative and thoughtful bass, and skillful and efficient drumming, the story is easy to create.