02/15/11 • Albums • By Leslie Connors
Critique: "Silent Words" (CD)
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.
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 http://www.jazzcorner.com/news/display.php?news=1513