Jonathan Fritzen – Fritzenized [TrackList follows] NordicNight

Jonathan Fritzen – Fritzenized [TrackList follows] – NordicNight NNR104 46:40 [2/10/15] ****:

(Jonathan Fritzen – piano, bass, keyboards, synthesizer programming; Randy Jacobs – guitar; Alex Al – bass; Andreas Ekstedt – percussion; Fredo Osterlund – drums; Paul Taylor – saxophone; Laila Adele – vocals; Mel Brown – bass; Alexander Kronbrink – guitar; Cammy – vocals; Peter Friestedt – guitar; Nils Landgren – trombone; Adam Hawley – guitar; Darryl Williams – bass; Henrick Linder – bass)

Some call it Smooth Jazz, others refer to it as Contemporary.  The movement has been traced to the influx of fusion, with its mixture of jazz, rock, soul, funk and pop. With a radio-friendly accessibility, many artists appeared on the scene, starting in the late seventies (although some attribute its genesis to Creed Taylor’s CTI label, most notably with Wes Montgomery).  David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, Pat Metheny and George Benson and several pianists like Bob James, Joe Sample and David Benoit make up a small portion of this group. Many hard-core jazz players tapped into this genre in the hopes of expanding market appeal. Smooth Jazz has waned in the hip-hop era, but still exists. There are streaming and on-air stations specializing in it.

One of the modern purveyors of this musical dynamic is Swedish-American Jonathan Fritzen. His debut, Love Birds (2008) received positive reviews and developed a fan base. Subsequent albums VIP (2009), Diamonds (2010) and Magical (2012) sustained career momentum. His fifth release, Fritzenized, may be a game changer. Composed, produced and mixed by the artist, the album is a collection of high-end production and musical textures. Opening the album is a groove fest, titled “Fingers On Fire”. With layered keyboard and finger-snapping rhythm, Fritzen delivers jaunty piano riffs (and some nice electric piano lines as well), backed by a “bottom” mix of bass (Alex Al), drums (Fredo Osterlund) and percussion (Andreas Ekstedt). Randy Jacobs contributes an effective funk guitar. The innate melodic flow is emphasized. “Euphoria” shifts to New Age pulse with Paul Taylor on soprano saxophone. On “A Funky Night”, Fritzen plays against Mel Brown’s bass and Ekstedt. There are atmospheric keyboard breaks and a two-line repeat overdubbed vocal chorus by Laila Adele who gets to showcase her talent. Nearly playing all of the instrumentation, the wistful “Enchantment” swirls with downbeat elegance and Cammy adds some vocalese. There is a framework of underlying pace. With some additional muscle by saxophonist Gerald Albright, “Celebration” is infectious and festive, finishing with a compelling guitar fade.

Fritzen appears equally adept at up tempos and tender suppleness. With Latin flair, “Guacamole” invokes a near samba resonance supported by trombonist Nils Landgren. The trombonist has a solo before Fritzen lays down a spirited dynamic solo. The duo has great chemistry. All of the tracks have a full sound. “Kiss Goodbye” has a certain simplicity and organic beat. The vocals (Fritzen and Cammy) are shading to the melody. The finale, “A New Beginning” begins with a hushed electric piano, but picks up energy as the rhythm section joins in the arrangement. Surrounded by lush keyboards, Fritzen’s lyrical piano lifts the performance.

Apparently, being Fritzenized is a good thing!

TrackList: Fingers On Fire; Euphoria; A Funky Night; Enchantment; Celebration; Sailing Away; Guacamole; The Jungle; Kiss Goodbye; A New Beginning

–Robbie Gerson

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