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Musical transformation: Chippewa Falls man among top candidates for Best Jazz Album Grammy nomination

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Sherry and Mario Friedel

Mario (right) and Sherry Friedel (left) regularly perform in the Chippewa Valley with their acoustic group, Songa.

Transforming decades of original music into something new, a process best done under the Venus moon.

Mario Friedel is a Chippewa Valley based musician with decades of experience under his belt. Friedel has served as an educator in both public and private schools and has gained experience as a musician, songwriter and performer. Friedel’s latest project, “Under the Venus Moon: The Music of Mario Friedel Ft. Jazz Vocalist Janet Planet,” sees Mario’s greatest hits being reimagined into big band jazz arrangements.

“If you have a really good song, it can be done in a number of different ways,” Friedel said. “Adding orchestration to these tracks brings new life to them, as it changes the nature of them entirely. I’ve played, and recorded, these songs a number of times over my lifetime, so it is nice to have them recorded in this way as a way of documenting them to show their transformation.”

Under the Venus Moon album cover

The record sees seven of Friedel’s tracks making the jump to jazz. The album was recorded at Steel Moon Recording and features performances from prominent jazz vocalist Janet Planet as well as a host of prolific jazz instrumentalists. Tom Washatka, a saxophonist, composer, arranger and recording engineer/producer on the record, helped Friedel along the process to seeing “Under the Venus Moon” come to fruition.

The album was submitted to the Grammy boards for consideration, and has advanced to the ballot portion of the nomination process, therefore reaching the top 78 entries out of 10,000 submissions for the Grammy award for Best Jazz Album.

“It’s an honor at my age to have complete versions of all of these songs,” Friedel said. “I listen through the cd and it’s incredibly heartwarming. It’s very touching to have so many fantastic performances on the record, and to know other people believe in it too is something new for me. I don’t take it for granted.”

Janet Planet and the UW-Oshkosh Jazz Ensemble will perform selections from “Under the Venus Moon” at the Grand Oshkosh Theater on Sunday, Dec. 5. at 7:30 p.m. under the direction of Marty Robinson. Tickets are available now at

When Mario isn’t making jazz records, he performs regularly with his wife Sherry Friedel in the acoustic group Songa, as well as other projects. Happy with where he is, Friedel said there are no plans for a follow-up to “Under the Venus Moon,” but he is open to revisiting the stylistic big band jazz sounds if his musical compass points that way in his retirement years.

You can stream “Under the Venus Moon” now on Spotify and all other major streaming platforms.


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