When the man who she had been chatting with at the Toronto bar got up to sing, Whitehorse jazz musician Fawn Fritzen knew his voice would fit perfectly on her next album.
That singer also happened to be nationally-recognized, Juno-award-winning jazz artist Steve Amirault.
But the aura of fame didn’t deter Fritzen from asking Amirault to perform in studio with her, or from sending him a friend request on Facebook. Both appeals were accepted.
Star-struck, she is not.
Fritzen was at the time participating in Canada’s Music Incubator, a 10-week program based in Toronto that aims to help emerging artists with the business and logistics side of managing a music career. She had done a weekend boot-camp in Whitehorse run through CMI in January 2015, which caused her to see how valuable a longer program could be.
But being a mother of two kids, she couldn’t just pack and go. Fritzen mentioned to her husband that she would like to take the program, but that would just be too much time away from family.
“Well, if you think that it would be good for you, then you should see if you can find a way to do it,” he replied.
So, after calling in reinforcements – Fritzen’s mother and mother-in-law – she took off for 10 weeks to Ontario from August until mid-October of last year.
“It was really a very full 10 weeks,” Fritzen says. “I went to as many jams as I could. I went to as many concerts as I could.”
Fritzen’s Toronto trip was just the latest step in a lifelong musical journey, starting when she first sat in front of a piano at age three. She worked her way up through the Royal Conservatory of Music until level nine, but there weren’t many opportunities for her to grow past that stage in Iqaluit where she was living at the time. She performed in musical theatre throughout university, and even taught lessons for a year after relocating to Whitehorse in 2005.
In 2013, Fritzen released her first full-length album, Bedroom Voice, and is now set to drop the needle on her sophomore record, Pairings.
The origin for Pairings starts just after Bedroom Voice was released. Acclaimed bassist George Koller did a show in Whitehorse, and Fritzen – not one to shy away from approaching artists – convinced Koller to do some recording with her in the studio. At first, Fritzen toyed with the idea of just releasing an EP, but she was swayed by fans to add more songs and make it a full album.
Since then, she has approached other notable musicians to perform with her on the record.
Amirault is not the only Juno winner on Pairings. Also teaming up with Fritzen for a few songs is David Restivo, who not only has a Juno under his belt, but also was recognized by the National Jazz Awards three times as Keyboardist of the Year. Look for his arrangement of Always, and his piano chops on Make it a Double and Please Send Me Someone to Love.
Fritzen wrote a bossa-style song – La Tete Dans la Lune – specifically in anticipation of pairing up with highly praised guitarist Reg Schwager, who specializes in the Latin style.
“I wanted to make sure that I had something in that style to do with him,” Fritzen says.
In rubbing shoulders with such high-profile musicians who have decades of professional experience, Fritzen could easily have been outshone on her own CD.
But she’s not swimming out of her depth. Her warm voice layers seamlessly with Canada’s best jazz icons, proving Fritzen is ready for the national stage.
“It’s just really inspiring to be in that environment, to be among these really high-level players,” Fritzen says. “But I never felt intimidated. They were just so real.”
And if her fans have their way, she will find herself more deeply immersed in the jazz scene in the coming years. Fritzen launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.com, which raised $14,000 to help Fritzen cover most of the cost of producing the album.
The end result of that drive is the 12-track Pairings, which will have an official release concert on April 30 at the Old Fire Hall. Select songs will be paired with wine samples, chosen by musical sommelier Peter Turner. Shows are at 6 p.m. and 8:45 p.m., with regular tickets at $20 and wine tickets at $50 which can be found at Dean’s Strings.
After launching in the Yukon, Fritzen has shows in Ontario and Quebec lined up as well, appearing a few times with Restivo and Koller.
Contact Joel Krahn at