Thomas Frykberg | Sunshine Marathon

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Jazz: Crossover Jazz World: African Moods: Type: Lyrical
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Sunshine Marathon

by Thomas Frykberg

Lyrical Jazz/world music with a lot of good melody and nice variation.
Genre: Jazz: Crossover Jazz
Release Date: 

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1. Sunshine Marathon
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2. One More Daydream
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3. Trash Cats
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4. The Squirrelwheel
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5. Harlequin At Work
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6. A Tear And A Smile
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7. Shadowdance
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8. Bluesbubbles
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9. Moonwater
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10. Pedestrian Street Shuffle
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11. Gone With The Blues
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12. Desert Rain
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Album Notes

02/15/11  •  Albums  •  By Leslie Connors
Critique: "Silent Words" (CD)
Thomas Frykberg

Genre(s): Smooth Jazz 
Thomas Frykberg is anything but silent. In fact, nearly every track on “Silent Words” is bustling; listening to it is like walking into a highway of instruments. Frykberg doesn’t create music that sits still. Only the title cut – a contemplative piano piece – offers a respite from all the kinetic activity. Yet, despite all the experimentation Frykberg still manages to keep the album from veering too far beyond a smooth-jazz record.
The heart of the album, and its most mass-appeal ingredient, is Frykberg’s saxophone playing. Frykberg’s sax is about as comfy as a soft pillow on “Soil,” a relaxing counterpoint to the tribal percussion. In “Doniazade,” Frykberg’s swirling sax aims for a Middle Eastern feel that gives the record a seductively exotic touch.
This is certainly not the faceless brand of smooth jazz that saturates U.S. radio. What Frykberg seems to be doing is finding a middle ground between smooth jazz and world music, connecting them together while leaving their specific qualities intact. It’s a difficult tightrope; too much of one can create an imbalance. However, Frykberg succeeds marvelously, effortlessly adding various elements without calling attention to them and thereby distracting the listener.
A former music teacher and composer at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts, Frykberg is giving some heady lessons here. Retired now, this is the master at work, displaying much of what he has learned himself. Judging from his performances on this record, it seems that Frykberg looks at jazz as being malleable. Jazz itself becomes an instrument. “The Golden Trade” falls on a Latin backbeat but is carried away by its African and Middle Eastern touches. Such a global outlook on music gives “Silent Words” its edge. For jazz to evolve, it needs an artist such as Frykberg to cut its shackles and roam free to other continents.

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Swedish composer Thomas Frykberg releases 'inventive, colorfully eclectic' smooth jazz album

(Stockholm, Sweden) Written by Robert Sutton. The words may be silent, but the music is loud and clear for Swedish jazz artist Thomas Frykberg. 

On his latest album, Silent Words, Frykberg uses smooth jazz as a starting point for inventive yet accessible experiments in rhythm and melody. Unlike many recent smooth jazz releases, Frykberg isn't content to color within the lines; he effortlessly breaks the boundaries between smooth jazz and other genres, dipping into Latin, African, and Middle Eastern styles for a collection of intriguing, colorfully eclectic instrumentals. 

Frykberg's roots in music stretch back to the ‘50s, when he was part of a skiffle group. At the time Frykberg became skilled at playing on the banjo but a piano in his household proved to be an irresistible temptation. For hours each day Frykberg would try out chords and melodies on the piano, his introduction to jazz. After that, Frykberg started studying how to play the clarinet and saxophone. Frykberg graduated from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973 and joined several bands as a keyboardist. Frykberg released an album in 1979 but wasn't comfortable with his vocals. "Honestly, I wanted somebody else to sing," he revealed. That same year Frykberg became a music teacher at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts and retired in 2007. 

Silent Words is the product of Frykberg now being able to devote his full time to his own creations. On "Celebration Nr 2," the soothing tones of Frykberg's saxophone provides a cushion for pounding African percussion; it's a spellbinding clash between smooth jazz and world music. "Mariposa Negra" and "Rockingchair Island" are awash with Latin influences; the latter opens with tropical beats that conjure images of sun-drenched beaches and crystalline blue ocean water. The music is never less than compelling, from the moody piano of the title track to the dreamy textures of "Dalaraga."
- by Robert Sutton


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Thomas Frykberg

Sunshine Marathon
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)