Piano: Sunna Gunnlaugs; Dred Scott Trio


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Sunna Gunnlaugs—Long Pair Bond (Sunny Sky, 2011) Icleandic pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs performs her latest album with the help of Porgrimur Jonsson on bass and Scott McLemore on drums. The group works very well together, on first listen it seems to be a self-functioning unit like the Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau trios, but closer listening shows the depth and thoughtfulness of the performances. The trio shows a great deal of mindfulness, approaching the music in the present moment and bringing an attentive way of dealing with both the compositions and deep listening to their colleagues. There is a crystalline beauty to the music that upon further examination unfolds its secrets slowly like the narrative of a well written novel. “Autumnalia" was a favorite track of mine, the slightly melancholy air of the music aptly describing in music the beauty and transitory nature of the fall season. There are two interesting covers on the album, “Diamonds on the Inside" originally by Ben Harper is re-arranged as a spacious meditation with large drops of piano notes falling like rain around the supportive bass and drums, and the beautifully haunting “Vicious World" by Rufus Wainwright, transformed into an excellent ballad with deft brushwork by Scott McLemore. This was a very impressive and well done album with the group having clear comprehension of their musical ideas and having great attention, engagement and compassion with the musical ecology they are creating.

Dred Scott Trio: Going Nowhere (Self-Produced, 2011) The Dred Scott Trio with Scott on piano, Ben Rubin on bass and Tony Mason on drums takes the piano trio format in a different direction, playing forcefully and dynamically, with a tongue in cheek sense sense of humor akin to another wonderful piano trio, The Bad Plus. Scott is a forceful pianist, getting a deeply full bodied sound out of the instrument whether skittering nervously with vocal interjections on “66 6ths" to the funky and occasionally raunchy rave up “Mojo Rhythm (Son of Yaa!) where the bass and drums build a nice rhythm and blues groove for Scott to weave around. They end on a slightly unexpected note with a performance of the standard “Seven Steps to Heaven." The juxtaposing of their hard, rhythmic approach with moments of spacial awareness make this an interesting album, something that should make the band appeal beyond the jazz audience into aficionados of funky jazz like Medeski, Martin and Wood.

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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