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CD REVIEW: R.C. KOHL - RAGS, JAZZ, BLUEGRASS Y MAS
By Dan Cohen - 02/05/2013 - 04:36 PM EST

Artist: R. C. Kohl
Album: RAGS, JAZZ, BLUEGRASS Y MAS
Label: GLM MUSIC
Sounds Like: George Winston meets Leo Kottke via John Williams
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: The Entertainer, Maple Leaf Rag, Take Five
CD Review: I love the guitar. I play it, badly but serviceably, but listening to a great guitar album is always a treat. Moreso when the artist has made such bold choices as has R.C. Kohl on this album.

Mr. Kohl teaches in Mexico at University of Veracruz, and the pieces on this album were recorded there. And were they recorded! Some engineers, faced with the particular problems of recording live acoustic music, opt for a set-up that allows for alot of 'room', meaning the natural reverb of the recording environment, be it a well-panelled studio or a gothic church. Not so Mr. Kohl. He has recorded his instrument so closely that one feels virtually inside the guitar, part of each quiver, each phrase, each hemi-demi-semi-quaver.  There feels like there's virtually no decay, no reverb, no 'room', on any of the notes, that it's all very up front an in your face. Imagine- a loud solo acoustic guitar record! A bold choice. The playing is clean, the tempi are clear, and there is a thrilling presence to the record that is not unlike a rock record. The downside is that there is an absence of the sound of nails hitting strings, of the work of guitar playing. It's like recording a singer and taking out all of the breaths. It can sound a little antiseptic. But overall, it's a sound I haven't really heard in this context, well and thoughtfully recorded, and far better than many guitar recordings, which sound as if they were taped in the bottom of a garbage can.

Mr. Kohl's sweet, bold tone does him great service in traditional tunes like Classical Gas and Maple Leaf Rag. He takes a surprising and sweet turn on Scott Joplin's famous tune 'The Entertainer', voicing it higher than you expect and slowing it down, so that it takes on a surprising elegiac, contemplative quality rather than the banging cakewalk we've come to expect.
His take on Sweet Georgia Brown is a bit stiff, but he makes up for it with winning renditions of the classic Errol Garner tune 'Misty', and a wonderful reworking of Paul Desmond's 'Take Five'

There's something for everyone on this cd. For the jazz aficcionado there's the unique sound he's come up with, and for the casual fan, a wide array of classics and offbeat yet compelling numbers (Keiki Sloack Key, anyone?) that bear repeated listening but also would be great background for a cocktail party, or perhaps a book club.

Unique sound, compelling song choices, often interesting arrangements- definitely worth a listen.




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