Love Birds by Jonathan Fritzén – reviewed by Chris Mann


Stockholm-born multi-instrumentalist and composer Jonathan Fritzén grew up in a musical family and started playing drums as a young child. He soon added piano, flute, bass and guitar to his list of instruments, and started singing less than a year before ‘Love Birds’ was finished.

Fritzén has a thorough education behind him from the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, being one of the first students to receive a masters degree from the jazz department. He was also the first "non-classical" musician in Sweden to receive an artist grant from the Royal Music Academy.

He has backed up some of the biggest stars in Sweden (and also international celebrities like Bonnie Tyler).  This is his first solo release. 

The instrumental opener ‘Temple of Dreams’ puts us deep into Brian Culbertson territory.  There’s that urban bassline with sweet piano over the top and it epitomises for me the best of what we all came to call “smooth jazz” over the last 15 years.  Unbelievably catchy – lovely.  This mood continues on the slightly more upbeat ‘One Night with You’.  I’m more aware of drums and nice bass on here – and Jonathan adds a little vocal on the chorus – but that piano is the star.  The acoustic guitar solo is pretty, and seems to come courtesy of Jonathan too.  Are you getting the idea? 

There are more vocal touches on ‘Like a Star’ which bounces along prettily and showcases Fritzen’s talent for melody very effectively.  On the other hand, ‘Back 2 The Club’ is more of a vehicle for rhythm.  I’m certain that the drums and bass are synthesized on this track.  Usually I say that critically, but here the sound suits the track perfectly.  This is one song that would sound great with a horn section, but I prefer no horns to fake horns… 

As you’d expect, ‘Midnight Secrets’ is very sexy, especially the intro with its layers of keyboard textures and then an insistent bass-driven groove with that lovely piano floating over the top.  Great production job, I have to say, with all that space.  That doesn’t always happen on a track with a strong rhythm.  There are some nice minor chords and a couple of breakdowns.  If this were spread over 10 minutes during a live show, I think it would be spellbinding.  I mean, really spellbinding. 

On the title track, the melody is strong and the vibe is strongly romantic.  The electronic keyboards are slightly more expressive than the acoustic piano.  I find myself wishing that this piano would ‘cry’ like Marcus Johnson’s Yamaha C1 – ah, it’s a hard thing to describe.  Electronic keyboards open the atmospheric ‘Distant Mountains’ which has much of the instant appeal of the album’s opener.  Now, God knows there is almost nothing I like as much as driving through the Nevada desert and seeing the mountains at the limit of my vision.  If I ever go again, this track is coming with me.  I’d like to hear Jonathan take chances playing this live.  He has the chops for sure… 

The intro to ‘Deep Down’ reminds me of an old Neil Larsen tune, and I find myself really getting into this slow number despite its broken rhythm pattern.  I’d love to hear live drums and bass on this song.  Melodically it’s strong but there’s room for more feeling here.  The groove on ‘Always Be My Lover’ is impeccable – Fritzén has listened to what makes the best smooth jazz numbers the best and stamped his own piano sound on there.  The bass sounds just like Nathan East on a Fourplay tune, for example.  I don’t think it’s Nathan and I don’t even know if it’s bass guitar – and I don’t care.  This is fantastic – my favourite song on the CD I think. 

The dreamy ‘Far Way’ is another strong statement of melody.  The synth strings add that cinematic touch and, as I often do, I pick out a song that would fit well into a movie soundtrack.  One of my other favourite things to do is sit in a movie theatre until the credits are over.  If this were playing, I reckon I’d stay until the lights came up.  Here is a player who knows how to portray romance and his strongest portrayal on this album is ‘Take Me Home’.  It’s a touch bluesy, a touch gospel even.  It’s the first time I noticed that right-hand ‘roll’ he does on the piano.  Please, more of this and make that piano weep on your next CD. 

The man who’s delivered all this music on his debut solo recording – and produced it – is only 25 years old.  He’s written and performed it all, and done it with style.  If at any point I’ve sounded critical or tried to compare Fritzén’s sound unfavourably with that of more established jazz stars, let me tell you this: this CD dropped through my door just days ago and I played it straight through three times before I listened to any other music.  I like it that much.  Find out more at 



Nordic Night Records – NNR100   Producer – Jonathan Fritzén