Dan Knishkowy has spent much of his career as Adeline Hotel exploring the breadth of his acoustic guitar, from the minimalist blues of 2016’s It’s Alright, Just the Same to the reflective folk of 2021’s Good Timing. But after writing seven solo guitar songs for his new record Hot Fruit, he couldn’t shake the thought that something was missing. So he reached out to friends to add their own improvisational touches, tapping electric guitarist Ryan El-Solh, bassist Carmen Q. Rothwell, drummer Jason Burger of the Brooklyn jazz trio Scree, and Office Culture’s Winston Cook-Wilson on piano. Each finished song feels like a guided journey, and the way in which these orchestral collaborations blossom along the edges ushers in a new era of spontaneity for Adeline Hotel.
Knishkowy long aspired to write from a place of intuition; this time, that instinct finally comes across naturally. Drawing a blend of sweetness and sharpness out of his guitar, he summons the conflicted emotions of outgrowing one’s former self. His finger-plucking alternates gracefully between loud notes played with confidence and notes that hesitate to ring out until the last second, as if quelling their nerves. El-Solh, Rothwell, Burger, and Cook-Wilson read his cues like any good friend would; they play in unison with certain guitar sections to further highlight Adeline Hotel’s original strengths (“Big Al”), and during other parts spiral off to emphasize the freeform shapes he’s building (“Little Chili”). The finished arrangements simmer into a rich nectar of orchestral folk as affecting as Nick Drake’s pastoral classics or William Tyler’s wordless portraits.
In the best moments on Hot Fruit, all four guest musicians integrate their ideas with Knishkowy’s at once, their colorful improvisations lacing around his nimble guitarwork like ribbons threaded into a bird’s nest. On opener “Beksul,” each addition fades into the frame: the calm scratching of a shaker that grows louder, individual piano notes that transform into heartfelt chords, plucks of upright bass that turn dewy and soulful. The beauty of this collaboration reaches its peak with the three-part suite “Seeing Yourself Seen.” Pedal steel lends the song a gentle sway as clarinet, flute, and strings—all arranged by El-Solh—trickle over Knishkowy’s autumnal acoustic guitar lines. The ease and unpredictability of the swells evoke the kinds of small, quotidian human interactions that inspire gratitude for life.
On previous records, like 2021’s piano-driven The Cherries Are Speaking, Knishkowy sang in a soft timbre about devotion and isolation. There’s no singing on Hot Fruit, but what we lose in words, we gain in sound as themes of self-concept and change take shape in probing melodies. It all stems from the intimate way Knishkowy wields his guitar: deft fingers and a light touch, with an understanding for how space and silence bolsters the music. The rhythmic hook and twinkling trill of the title track relays the magic of curiosity; the slight shift into a downtrodden chord on “White Sands” alludes to a moment of doubt yet forges onward. The clarity of these guitar parts sets Hot Fruit apart from Adeline Hotel’s previous work. It’s one thing to set out to follow your intuition; it’s another to illustrate it so lucidly in song that fellow musicians can tap in and improvise along.