Artist: Thomas Frykberg
Album: Sunshine Marathon
Review by Matthew Forss
Sweden’s Thomas Frykberg dazzles the crowds with another fine set of instrumental jazz songs. Sunshine Marathon borders on smooth jazz and world jazz. There are equal doses of Balkan charm, North American melodies, and limited Latin or African ambiances. The twelve tracks showcase Thomas’ uncanny ability to create moving instrumentals in a contemporary context without sacrificing quality.
“Sunshine Marathon” opens with a drone, metal bow percussion, and a shaker. The instruments continue as the buzzy keyboard notes carry the melody. A trumpet adds some slightly Latin tinges to the mix. Congas or bongos interrupt the shakers, trumpet, and mid-tempo keyboard accompaniment. The latter half of the song contains a little sax and higher-pitched hand-drums that resemble a combination of the sound of horses plodding and a cupping/popping sound of one’s mouth. At any rate, the nice mix of varied percussion, keyboard accompaniment, and horns make the title song beam with sun-shiny radiance.
“One More Daydream” begins with a bass and snare-like drum sound that is accompanied by atmospheric keyboards and a bandoneon-type melody. Sparkling, bell-like tones, harp-like sounds, smooth clarinet, and jazzy piano join in with equal amounts of fervor. The swishy percussion and instrumental interplay make this song perfect for lounging, relaxing, and daydreaming. “Trash Cats” opens with a moderate, jazzy beat with keyboard accompaniment, sax, and bass. The groovy, down-tempo feel make the song shine with smooth goodness all around. The percussion includes a tinny presence mid-song.
“The Squirrelwheel” opens with tapping sounds and a keyboard background with horn accompaniment echoing a Middle Eastern or Balkan jazz presence. The tapping sound possesses a Brazilian quality, which probably mimics the berimbau instrument—a curved bow with a metal or gourd resonator a single wire that is struck with a stick. The percussion delves into more of a classic, jazz pattern that evokes images of lounge clubs and cigar smoke. The music is free-flowing and improvisational with many influences that do not detract from the overall execution of the song. “Harlequin At Work” opens with a jaunty guitar and flute medley that is a spritely nod to the Renaissance. The flute plays alongside a percussion set with some piano accompaniment. The effect is Celtic, Scottish, and other European elements make the song come to life without possessing overt jazz undertones. The keyboard and horn accompaniment provide an almost high-church presence, but it only lasts a brief moment.
“A Tear And A Smile” is a slow, solo piano tune that serves as a mid-album interlude for the second set of songs. “Moonwater” contains atmospheric washes and a light wave of horn sounds. A sauntering concoction of rattling pod sounds and metallic tapping symbolize water qualities. A rainstick is played mid-song. “Pedestrian Street Shuffle” opens with a xylophone tune, upright bass, and accordion-like sounds. Light tapping and sax accompaniment add to the mix. The tapping represents walking or dancing sounds that tap shoes would make on a hard floor. Keyboard washes join the gurgling, metallic sounds and tapping noises, which are reminiscent of new age inventions. Still, the song evokes a nostalgic ambiance by the flapper-inspired medley.
Thomas’ set of twelve songs contain a bright combination of instrumentation, melody, and rhythm. The songs are mostly four to six minutes in length. The fluid keyboards, pensive piano, world percussion, and jazzy incarnations are nothing short of miraculous. In fact, Sunshine Marathon does not race to the finish too soon—it slowly develops and unfolds throughout without any weaknesses. This is ideal for fans of world jazz, instrumental music, and a good time.
Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)