Can I Ask You A Question?
Dances with the Sun
Tom Kohl (piano): Steve LaSpina (bass on tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8): Stephen
Roane (bass on tracks 3 and 5): Jon Doty (drums)
Recorded May 2012 and February 2016, Tedesco Studios, NJ and Studio 24,
Ossining, NY (track 9)
Pianist Tom Kohl opens his album Dances with the Sun with a
sequence of arrhythmic Monk-like gestures on Tymus that are
supported by the determined and strong bass playing of Steve LaSpina and
the meshed interplay of drummer John Doty. It inaugurates a diverting disc
in which a number of influences – Monk included – can be inferred. But the
good news is that they are not allowed to hold the pianist or his group in
thrall. Take Can I Ask You a Question? which is a thoughtful,
poetically interrogative number that even aspires to the status of refined
chanson. Its richness is never arch and even the benignly titled A-Flat Tune springs some surprises sounding rather like early
Keith Jarrett with its rhythmic freedoms and inflections and, not least,
catchy thematic writing.
Kohl’s trios – sometimes LaSpina is the bassist but on two tracks Stephen
Roane takes over duties – are democratic organisations. LaSpina takes a
strong role on the title track, his full, rounded tone being eminently well
recorded, and Doty’s drum work is similarly athletic and forward in the
mix. Kohl has the gift of crafting catchy themes which is good news given
that all the compositions, bar two, are his own. Take Stick Figure which, with its metric displacements and stop-start
rhythm offers listeners a strongly propelled and witty five minutes’ worth
of vitality. Carbonesque sounds like a kind of cousin to A-Flat Tune, its slightly Gospel-tinged phraseology and
attractively communicative themes being equally viable.
The standards are Victor Herbert’s Indian Summer, which makes a
perhaps unexpected appearance, and Lover Man rather less so. The
former, however, turns out to be apt, given Kohl’s predilection for songful
warmth. Lover Man is bathed in a light Latin wash and Doty
emphasises this element with persuasive subtlety. It’s interesting that
this is by some way the longest track.
Kohl and his trio (or trios) offer some vibrant and engaging music-making
in this 50-minute disc.