A Creative Exploration of Vocal Jazz

Fawn Fritzen‘s first album, Bedroom Voice, demonstrates what can happen when a talented artist meets an engaging producer. It’s what happened with The Beatles and George Martin, Talking Heads and Brian Eno, or brigs and Jordy Walker.

Fritzen is a vocalist, pianist and songwriter who had been performing for eight years when her husband Michael convinced her to compete in North of 60 Idol in Yellowknife. Moving to Whitehorse shortly after that, she joined Yukon Women in Music and hosted songwriter circles at her home. Michael also convinced her to join him in The Big Band.

“That was where I discovered my love of vocal jazz,” she says.

When she decided to record, Fritzen received a list of recording studios from fellow Big Band member Duncan Sinclair.

“He said that I could also try Daniel Janke – he has his own studio for recording film soundtracks, so he’s self-contained,” she says.

Janke, a filmmaker, writer, composer and musician who now fronts the band, The Working Dogs, is well-known in the Whitehorse music scene.

The result of Fritzen and Janke’s collaboration is a treasure of vocal jazz. It captures the strength and expression of Fritzen’s voice and songwriting with Janke’s skills and experimentation to create a thoroughly enjoyable album.

However, it wasn’t easy. Fritzen says there was some creative tension between herself and Janke as they worked on the album.

“He has his own opinions of how things should be done and sometimes that’s frustrating,” she says. “It felt like I was always arguing with him, although things worked out well for the project in the end.”

The album features some of Fritzen’s original songs alongside vocal jazz standards like “Cry Me a River” and “Black Coffee” and covers such as Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will” and “Tous doucement”.

“If It Be Your Will” is a good example of this collaborative exploration. While Cohen’s original is a hymn, this version is more playful, with Janke varying the rhythm with triplets on piano contrasting with Fritzen’s faithful and reverent vocals. It feels like Holly Cole’s interpretations of Tom Waits.

Janke also suggested that Fritzen translate “The Gentle Rain into German”, rather than repeat the verses as she usually did live. He also experimented with the instruments, preparing the piano with screws and foam in the strings. The result is a soft, emotional piece with an exotic hint of a smoky German cabaret.

Of the four original songs by Fritzen, “Under My Skin” stands out. Providing her own harmonies, Fritzen sings with a sensual delicacy, supported by an incredibly talented band, consisting of Janke on piano, Dave Haddock on bass, Ken Searcy on drums and Daniel Timmermans on trumpet.

On other songs, Paul Lucas joins in with guitar, which is especially moving on “Cry Me a River”, where it lies softly under her vocals, matching them and carrying through with a solo.

Andrea McColeman adds marimba to the ensemble for “Hushabye Mountain” helping to turn a lullaby into something more haunting.

Fawn Fritzen‘s first CD Bedroom Voice is a treasure of vocal jazz and showcases the value of a strong artist/producer relationship. It is available through her website FawnFritzen.com and the digital version can be purchased through iTunes.

Outstanding Tracks: “The Gentle Rain/Sanfter Regen Fällt” and “Under My Skin”.

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