186

Sunna Gunnlaugs: Fagra Verold

Roger Crane By

Sign in to view read count
Sunna Gunnlaugs: Fagra Verold 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

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Sunny Sky | Style: Vocal


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Catching Up With
CD/LP/Track Review
Take Five With...
Read more articles
Jan Garbarek Jan Garbarek
sax, tenor
Bobo Stenson Bobo Stenson
piano
Anat Fort Anat Fort
piano
Arild Andersen Arild Andersen
bass, acoustic
Eri Yamamoto Eri Yamamoto
piano
Bill Mays Bill Mays
piano
Marc Cary Marc Cary
piano
Josh Nelson Josh Nelson
piano

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "I Go Back Home: A Story About Hoping And Dreaming" CD/LP/Track Review I Go Back Home: A Story About Hoping And Dreaming
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 21, 2016
Read "Cómo Desaparecer Completamente" CD/LP/Track Review Cómo Desaparecer Completamente
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute" CD/LP/Track Review Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 11, 2016
Read "Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2016
Read "For The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review For The Unknown
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 9, 2016
Read "Proximity" CD/LP/Track Review Proximity
by Budd Kopman
Published: November 7, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

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!

Buy it!