The Washington Post described her music as possessing “such timeless virtues as lyricism and grace... elegantly bridges soul-searching passages with uncluttered swing.” Sunna Gunnlaugs reaffirms that assesment on her latest CD, Long Pair Bond which features fellow Icelander bassist Thorgrimur Jónsson and long-time cohort Scott McLemore on drums. It’s her first trio album since her debut in 1997, and now a more mature, more experienced Gunnlaugs presents this music in an unhurried, contemplative fashion. Ironically, it is the spaces she leaves that creates a sense of urgency throughout the recording.
"Gunnlaugs proves that jazz can have a wider appeal without losing integrity."—All About Jazz
Equally influenced by such American pianists as Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, and Scandinavians like Bobo Stenson and Jon Balke, Sunna has found a way to make music to which people on both sides of the Atlantic can relate. Her own charming brand of romantic lyricism soaring over a driving American rhythm section appeals to jazzers and non-jazzers alike.
As a child growing up on a small peninsula called Seltjarnarnes not far from Reykjavik she began taking lessons on the organ at the urging of her mother. "The idea of playing the piano didn't appeal to me as a kid. I associated it with classical pianists who seemed to have no fun. But on the organ you could play anything, the Beatles, polkas, Strauss and that seemed like more fun." By her teens, having realized that you could in fact play a variety of music on the piano, it was the gift of a Bill Evans trio record (appropriately named "You're Gonna Hear From Me") that sold her on modern jazz.
In 1993 she made her way to the US as a student at William Paterson College and began to hone her own distinct musical voice both as an improvisor and a composer while immersing herself in the standards and studying the masters. Just a 15 minute drive from Manhattan, inspiration was not hard to find. "Suddenly being able to go to the Village Vanguard or Bradley's any night of the week and hear amazing pianists was an incredible experience. It was such a stimulating environment," and one that Gunnlaugs had no intention of leaving after graduating in 1996. She moved to Brooklyn and made her debut recording "Far Far Away" with her trio: bassist Dan Fabricatore and drummer (and future husband), Scott McLemore.
In New York her focus shifted decidedly to performing her own music. She began appearing at listening rooms such as Cornelia Street Cafe and the Knitting Factory, and rave reviews followed. Gunnlaugs was proclaimed an "impressive newcomer" by the Village Voice.
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From the blogs:
“Long Pair Bond is phenomenal.”—Jazzwrap, Stephan Moore
"Too much spaciness can wreck a good album, and too much earth can, too. Long Pair Bond gets pretty darn close to the perfect balance." — Rehearsing the Blues, Jon Wertheim
"There is a crystalline beauty to the music that upon further examination unfolds its secrets slowly like the narrative of a well written novel." — Music and More, Tim Niland
What the European press is saying:
“... Sunna Gunnlaugs’ Trio whose cool atmospherics and meditative quality draws on Icelandic folk melodies and brooding soundscapes, yet internally has an unhurried Bill Evans-like swing and an appetite to explore the inner soul.” — Jon Newey, Jazzwise, UK