Review By: Dana Brenklin
Jonathan Fritzén "Fritzenized" 02/10/15
Label: Nordic Night Records
“Fritzenized” is the 5th recording of Swedish Jazz Pianist Jonathan Fritzen. Believe it or not, the piano was not the musician’s first choice. Jonathan started out playing the drums. Fritzen later picked up the piano, guitar, bass, flute and vocals. Fritzen’s father is Pianist Steve Dobrogosz, so it is safe to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Fritzen graduated from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden and became the first ever to earn a Master’s degree in the Jazz department. In 2008 he put that training to work by playing 8 different instruments on his debut album, titled “Love Birds.”
Fritzen has enjoyed much success since 2008. Jonathan’s sophomore album, “VIP” spent 40 weeks on the SmoothJazz.com top 50. “Dance with Me,” his hit single from his third album, “Diamonds” spent 10 weeks at no. 1 on the Billboard Indicator Smooth Jazz Chart. So once you are swept off your feet with this album, you’ll realize that it was inevitable. Fritzen has been musically charming us for some time now.
The album begins with the funky and soulful “Fingers on Fire”. Melodic and groovy to a fault, you’re hooked as soon as the cd begins to play. Fritzen’s fifth time should definitely follow the success of the critically acclaimed “Magical”, which spawn the Billboard no. 1 of the same name. From start to finish guest appearances include some of Jonathan’s favorites, such as singer and longtime collaborator Laila, saxophonist Gerald Albright, who Fritzen calls the greatest sax player on earth, Paul Taylor and more. Even the sassy pianist himself makes an appearance, utilizing his rarely heard, sexy tenor vocals on “Sailing Away.”
“Fingers on Fire” is the first track on Fritzen’s latest LP and it brings in the funk. Fingers is a top down, driving up the coast, wind blowing in the hair, Sunday afternoon, type of track. Jonathan’s piano is very nicely accompanied by the bass quietly following in the background, which would be sorely missed had it not been there.
From there, we are carried into the aptly titled “Euphoria,” as he probably has us in his clutches by now. Saxophonist Paul Taylor can be heard instrumentally dancing with Fritzen on this serene tune.
Once we are euphorized, we head into “A Funky Night,” where Jonathan teams up with singer and musical buddy, Laila. We’re flying high now.
We start to settle in on the fourth track, “Enchantment.” Fritzen slows us way down as he romanticizes with every stroke of the ivories and he continues to do so right on into the “Celebration,” where he pairs up with the awesomely talented saxophonist Gerald Albright. This song is definitely a jam and that is exactly what the pianist was looking for when he asked Gerald, bass player Alex Al and guitarist Randy Jacobs to join him. All four musicians are in the groove on this one and the chemistry seeps through.
The Fritzenization continues with “Sailing Away,” on which Jonathan can be heard serenading us with his silky vocals. This man is just loaded with talent. Next up is the Latin themed “Guacamole,” Fritzen’s favorite thing to eat, which is part of the reason for the title. Jonathan says years ago after the shows in Nicaragua, he’d go out and hear the DJ’s spinning “Reggaeton,” he says this is his take. I think we like his take. A little lighter on the bass, a little heavier on the keys and just enough of the drums for your Smooth Jazz head to drift into a little Saturday afternoon solitude.
The tranquil, sometimes melancholy, sometimes jazzy album starts to conclude with “The Jungle” and the near comatose rendering “Kiss Goodnight.”
Jonathan finishes the job on us nicely with a “New Beginning,” which is the first single to hit the airwaves. If he keeps playing like this, a new beginning will never be necessary. Some artist have to reinvent themselves and some just get better with time, Jonathan is the latter. Fritzen obviously did some tall studying at the Royal Academy and has an undeniable fire for what he does.
If you allow yourself, Fritzen and friends will take you on a most pleasurable ride and if you so fancy, bring you gently back into the atmosphere after you’ve been “Fritzenized.”
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