With an apparent target audience
of pop-oriented fans, Swedish-American keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen
releases Fritzenized (Nordic Night Records, 2015).
Fritzen adopted part of the smooth jazz radio formula. The selections
are catchy and, with little exception, fit neatly into the approximate
four-minute window intended for radio singles. Still, it’s a nice
selection. Fritzen is accompanied by a variable lineup of guest
musicians and vocalists.
“Fingers on Fire” is a happy-go-lucky groove. With Randy Jacobs on
guitars, Alex Al on bass, Andreas Ekstedt on percussion and Fredo
Osterlund on drums, Fritzen handles piano, keys and synth programming.
One programming effect is of a violin that complements the piano during
a phrase in the chorus. Jacobs throws in a little wah-wah effect here
and there. No one element stands out. Instead, the joy of this song is
the attitude projected by the musicians, as if they’re saying, “Let’s
just have some fun.”
“Enchantment” is a haunting piece that features wordless vocals by Cammy
and guitars by Alexander Kronbrink. Fritzen handles bass, keys and synth
programming duties to augment his piano. The programming harkens back to
the 1990s and early 2000s when an abundance of radio format-friendly
smooth jazz relied heavily on programming in place of drum kits. The
blandness of that particular sound isn’t enough to ruin this beautifully
written and performed song. Cammy’s whispery chant is a perfect
complement to the piano.
An interesting mix of old and new is “Celebration.” Saxophonist Gerald
Albright joins the same ensemble that appeared on “Fingers on Fire.”
This upbeat, slightly funky tune borrows the verse melody from the 1980s
hit, “Caribbean Queen.”
The throaty trombone of Nils Landgren is part of the landscape of
“Guacamole.” With Ekstedt on percussion, Adam Hawley on guitars and
Darryl Williams on bass, this may be the least formula-driven piece in
the set. The title is taken from one of Fritzen’s favorite foods. The
mood is based on a beat that he heard in Nicaragua. While touring there,
he would often go to clubs after performances, and he heard this sound
played by deejays. A highlight of the track is Hawley’s sharp,
Billed is Sweden’s hottest import to America since ABBA, Fritzen is a
world traveler who incorporates much of what he’s experienced into his
music. He composed all 10 tracks on Fritzenized.