Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

186

Sunna Gunnlaugs: Fagra Verold

Roger Crane By

Sign in to view read count
An Icelandic woman who leads her own group is not the most common thing in jazz, but pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs just may be the best jazz pianist you’ve never heard. As a child she played polkas and Beatles tunes on the organ in her homeland, but an encounter with an LP by pianist Bill Evans was, as she states, “the key that unlocked her creative spirit.” Although born in Iceland, she came to the United States to study music in 1992. She liked it so well that she decided to stay and is now living and performing in New York City.

The title of Fagra Verold, her third CD, means “beautiful world,” an appropriate image since the music is the aural equivalent of just such a place. This CD features her compositions married to the poetry of three of Iceland’s most beloved poets. Gunnlaugs also wrote some of the lyrics and one with her mother Sofia Thorarensen. All lyrics and song titles on Fagra Verold are in Icelandic. Gunnlaugs kept the same fine rhythm section from her previous CD, Mindful, bassist Drew Grass and drummer Scott McLemore, but here she adds two fellow Icelanders, saxophonist Sigurdur Flosanson and vocalist Kristjana Stefansdottir. Since her very lovely clear voice can be heard on each selection, this CD could, in fact, be considered a showcase for Stefansdottir, who studied at the conservatory at The Hague before she embarked on her current career.

Three of my personal favorites are the opening cut, “Fra lidnu vori,” the sublime title cut, and the beautiful seven-minute piece “Margar naetur.” You do not need to understand Icelandic to appreciate the magnificence of Kristjana’s voice. In addition to her singing, Fagra Verold also showcases Gunnlaugs’ highly sophisticated and articulate pianism as well as her lyrical and thoughtful compositions, which range between simple statements of melody and more complex platforms for exploration. But they always always exhibit logic and beauty.

Sunna Gunnlaugs’ group has been performing together since about 1999 around New York City at places like the Knitting Factory and the Cornelia Street Café. Her band includes some of the best players on New York’s downtown scene, and their familiarity and cohesion are very apparent here.

Fagra Verold has been nominated as the jazz CD of the year in Iceland. Such attention in a small country of only 280,000 hardy folks is nonetheless an honor and the award is most worthy. Gunnlaugs’ previous recording was chosen as one of the top ten CDs of the year by the Virginian Pilot. If you love the music of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, chances are you will also appreciate this record. Gunnlaugs is definitely influenced by these two pianists (as well as Scandinavian pianist Bobo Stenson), but she has developed her own voice, a charming brand of warm, intimate lyricism. Sunna is nobody’s clone.

One of the true joys of writing jazz reviews is discovering new artists. Sunna Gunnlaugs was such a discovery, and I am already anticipating her next CD, Live In Europe. Fagra Verold is quite simply a beautiful jazz recording.


Track Listing: 1 Fra lidnu vori 2. Eg leyfi mer ad dreyma 3. Fagra verold 4. Sumar vid sjo 5. Margar naetur 6. Heim nu reikar hugurinn 7. Eg mun takast a vid heiminn 8. Lestin mikla 9. Skipaskagi

Personnel: Sunna Gunnlaugs

Title: Fagra Verold | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Sunny Sky


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Lavaman CD/LP/Track Review Lavaman
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32 CD/LP/Track Review Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32
by Don Phipps
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Knock A Hole In It" CD/LP/Track Review Knock A Hole In It
by James Nadal
Published: April 12, 2017
Read "The Truth" CD/LP/Track Review The Truth
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 17, 2017
Read "Reality" CD/LP/Track Review Reality
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 14, 2017
Read "Then and Now" CD/LP/Track Review Then and Now
by Duncan Heining
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends" CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Ljubljana" CD/LP/Track Review Ljubljana
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 6, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!