JONATHAN FRITZEN: V.I.P. (Label: Nordic Nights)

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Smooth or lite jazz is enjoying something of a renaissance right now – especially in Europe and Swedish piano man Jonathan Fritzen is leading the European vanguard. His first album enjoyed moderate success, but this newie – ‘V.I.P’ – is consistently top of the Amazon European jazz charts and it’s easy to hear why. Fritzen has a delightful fluid style and a strong sense of melody but – like all great jazz players – he also understands the importance of the groove … that indefinable magic which makes one piece of music standout from another. In that respect Jonathan’s work is similar to the great Texan piano man Joe McBride and you can hear his influence (conscious or not) throughout this LP. It’s most notable on the title cut which Fritzen wisely uses as the opener. It’s strength and clarity tells you right away that this is no play-by-numbers smooth jazz set. There’s more echoes of McBride on the gentler ‘In Motion’ – it has the feel of the McBride version of ‘Walking In Rhythm’ and if you know that one, you’ll understand how relaxing and laid back ‘In Motion’ is… the main motif is a delight. ‘In Your Eyes’ (not the George Benson song) is another ear-catching slowie where a clever use of a cello underpins the tune’s inherent melancholy. For more variety there are a couple of cuts that older readers might compare to Shakatak (remember them?). ‘If You Want It’ and ‘Stay’ both feature those charming whispered vocal lines that were a Shakatak specialty. Other goodies include the crisp beater that is ‘Day After Day’ and the chiller, ‘Fading Away’ which features some mellow sax work from Michael Lington. In truth though, there’s nothing here that won’t satisfy the growing smooth brigade. Yes, the music’s not mould-breaking, experimental or ultra-cerebral but that’s to miss the point. Fritzen here has consummately achieved what he set out to do – to create some fine, accessible smooth jazz.
(BB) 4/5