Bassist/vocalist Kelly Friesen was born in Canada and studied bass, piano, voice and theory at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. A New Yorker since 1993, Friesen studied with Ray Brown for four years in the 1990s. His experience on the New York has been broad; he has appeared with Herb Ellis, Etta Jones and Frank Wess, among others, and has played at several big-name venues.
His 1997 debut album, Back In Time, with Howard Alden and George Kelly, displayed his vocal style. Friesen also appeared in the Woody Allen film Sweet and Lowdown in 1999. The plot line of the film involved the search for guitarist Django Reinhardt, and Friesen's style of bass playing ("slap bass") was so distinctive that it was used throughout the film.
The liner notes accompanying Songs of Love compare Friesen to Nat King Cole and Chet Baker, insofar as his vocals are concerned. I don't hear any connection with Cole, but there is a very definite link to Baker in his vocal delivery and choice of material. Most of the songs on this album are from the Chet Baker songbook, like "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "Let's Get Lost," "My Heart Stood Still" and "Time After Time." Others are not only Baker-associated, but rarely appear on albums any morelike "Do It The Hard Way" and "Look For the Silver Lining." In addition, Friesen provides a version of Lenny Hambro and Roberta Heller's "The Lonely One," which I associate with Cole.
Friesen sings in a pleasant style, and his group provides appropriate swing or ballad support. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Charlie Caranicas and alto/tenor saxophonist Michael Hashim provide frequent but brief solos that ably reinforce the message of Friesen's lyric delivery. Guitarist Bob Ward takes a long and impressive solo on "Teach Me Tonight." On the appropriately titled closer, Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye," Friesen the bassist provides the melody line and plays an arco solo.
Personnel: Kelly Friesen: bass, vocals; Taro Okamoto: drums; Bob Ward, Ed MacEachen: guitar; Charlie
Caranicas: trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Hashim: alto and tenor saxophone.