(English follows the Japanese)
特に最初の「Long Pair Bond」は、ピアノの音が次にどこへいくの？というワクワク感のあるメロディだし、ピアノの音が五月雨のように降り注ぐ「Autumnalia」は、ベースとの掛け合いが素敵だし、やさしく美しくというより少々男性的な響きの「Crab Canon」は 即興をやりだしたら楽しそうな雰囲気で、いかにもジャズらしい遊び心がある。
「 Fyrir Brynhildi」はスンナお得意の叙情的なメロディが、まずはベースで奏でられ、次にピアノが美しくエキゾチックなラインを紡いでいく。「 Safe From the World」は子守歌のような安らぎのある曲で、聴いていると別世界にもっていかれそうな気がする。
アップデンポ気味の「Diamonds on the Inside」はベン・ハーパー5作目のアルバム・タイトル曲で、これをスンナがピアノ・トリオ曲として楽しくきれいにまとめあげている。
「 Not What But How」は東洋思想に基づいた考えからのタイトルということ。スンナの素敵な旦那様でありドラムスのスコットの作品。最後の「Vicious World」は和音の使い方が魅力的で、オリジナルはルーファス・ウェインライト。私はこの手のシンガー・ソングライターに目がなく、ルーファスのヴァージョンも胸キュンですが、そのイメージを壊すことなく、ピアノの美しい響きを生かしたピアノ・トリオならではのヴァージョンにもため息です。
Sunna Gunnlaugs (piano)
Borgur Jonsson (bass)
Scott McLemore (drums)
1. Long Pair Bond
5. Crab Canon
6. Fyrir Brynhildi
7. Safe From the World
8. Diamonds on the Inside
9. Not What But How
10. Vicious World
❑ Sunna Gunnlaugs - Website
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With Long Pair Bond, Sunna Gunnlaugs returns to the piano trio format last heard on Far Far Away. Since that 1997 self-titled debut—the only album to use her tongue-twisting full name, Gunnlaugsdóttir—the Icelandic pianist has, in addition to contracting her name to the eminently more memorable Gunnlaugs, recorded almost exclusively with quartets, largely populated with American (or, at least, American-resident) musicians met after moving to the United States in 1993 to study at William Paterson College. Long Pair Bond's return to trio format is, however, just one of a number of significant changes afoot since Gunnlaugs released The Dream (Self Produced) in 2010. Returning to Iceland, Gunnlaugs still collaborates with husband/drummer Scott McLemore—the only constant across all seven of her recordings including 2003's fiery Live in Europe (Sunny Sky)— but shifts to local talent for the bass chair. Þorgrímur "Toggi" Jónsson may be a lesser-known entity when compared to past bassists including Drew Gress and Eivind Opsvik, but based on his performance here he's clearly someone to watch, with his flexible blend of firm-planted anchor and inventive melodic foil. On his sole compositional contribution, the folkloric "Fyrir Brynhildi"—which introduces a hint of optimism at the end of each pass with a brief major chord, before returning to its melancholic, minor tonal center—his warm-toned pizzicato drives both the melody and a solo that matches Gunnlaugs' own lyrical bent, though he proves equally capable of more angular playing on the pianist's harmonically oblique "Thema." Long Pair Bond also signals a shift away from more complex compositional constructs, though Gunnlaugs still favors mixing up the meters, twisting her own "Autumnal," ever-so-slightly through occasional dropped beats. McLemore's three contributions lean more to the straightforward, with both "Elsabella" and the more up-tempo "Not What But How" in waltz-time, but even when he resorts to irregular time signatures, as he does on "Safe From the World," it never distracts from the song's gentle, easy-on-the-ears nature. Gunnluags' touchstones are unmistakable, with hints of Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, but filtered through her unmistakable allegiance to Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson's classically informed and harmonically skewed melodism. But the barely forty-something pianist also looks beyond these touchstones for inspiration, delivering a relatively straightforward version of alt-rock singer/songwriter Ben Harper's "Diamonds on the Inside" and a less faithful look at Rufus Wainwright's "Vicious World," which may challenge even the biggest meter-o-phile to "find the one," but remains paradoxically delicate and singable. Throughout, McLemore's touch is light—not unlike Norwegian drummer Jarle Vespestad's work with pianist Tord Gustavsen, employing a variety of sticks for textural effect—while Gunnlaug's is firm yet pliant, moving from fragile vulnerability to robust power on her opening title track. Gunnlaugs has always been about musical depth that doesn't sacrifice inherent accessibility, but by trimming back to a trio, she's delivered one of her most approachable albums yet, where there's no shortage of challenge—but that's largely left to the players. For everyone else, Long Pair Bond's 50 minutes pass by with ease, but not without leaving a lasting impression.
- By JOHN KELMAN, All About Jazz
“Overall serenity … which, like her homeland [Iceland], is disturbed from time to time by unbridled energy bubbling up under the surface” might sound a little fanciful in its essentialism, but it is a pretty accurate description of the trio sound of pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs. Her robust lyricism is apparent from the opening title-track onwards, throughout an intriguingly varied programme that comprises three vigorously polyrhythmic, slow-building compositions by drummer Scott McLemore, a touching melody dedicated to his daughter from bassist ƥorgrímur Jónsson and a couple of pop songs by Ben Harper and Rufus Wainwright, in addition to the leader’s four multi-hued pieces. Her playing moves easily and unaffectedly between buoyant, even occasionally gospelly joyousness and spacy, contemplative restraint, sensitively supported by her rhythm section, and all the in-band originals are characterised by musicianly verve and snap; the Harper and Wainwright pieces, however, are perhaps a mite too uncomplicated to stretch such a skilful band. Overall, though, this is an absorbing and powerful album, and it should appeal to admirers of Keith Jarrett and the late, lamented EST alike.
- by Chris Parker, London Jazz News
Bridging the Brooklyn-Reykjavik jazz divide with European elegance and a fiery, New York drive.
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.
However, the music she was writing began to need more than just a trio. "I had been listening a lot to the Keith Jarrett quartet and Jan Garabrek with Bobo Stenson and the sound of the quartet was so appealing to me." She called upon saxophonist Tony Malaby and bassist Drew Gress. "I was familiar with Tony from his own bands and was stunned by how expressive he was. Drew, I knew from his work with Fred Hersch and Dave Douglas. He always added such a bounce to my tunes, while keeping it really open." In 1999, along with McLemore, the quartet recorded "Mindful" and, with time left over on the same day, they recorded "Songs from Iceland."
"A stunning quartet."– All About Jazz
"Mindful" (chosen as one of the top 10 CDs of the year by the Virginian Pilot) was as personal a statement an artist can make. From the opening flurry of notes in duet with Malaby the listener knows something special is coming. There is at once a joyful buoyancy and ethereal melancholy which envelops the listener from start to finish. That ambience continues on "Songs from Iceland" and the relationship with the material, five Icelandic folk-songs that Gunnlaugs grew up with, is just as personal. "These were tunes that we were playing on concerts, and when we felt "Mindful" was complete I suggested we record these for posterity. I wasn't really sure what I would do with them, but it seemed important to document." Almost a decade later "Songs from Iceland" was released, adding more weight to a recommendation from Jazziz that her "unique blend of jazz piano and Icelandic folk music" is a "great listen."
In the meantime Sunna released 2 albums, the first was 2002's "Fagra Veröld" (music written to Icelandic poetry), featuring Gress and McLemore as well as the voice of Kristjana Stefánsdóttir and saxophonist Sigurdur Flosason. The 2nd was 2003's high-energy "Live in Europe" which rode the jazz charts into the top 10 in both the US and Canada. It was recorded in Prague in the middle of a three-week tour of Europe with saxophonist Ohad Talmor and bassist Matt Pavolka.
Gunnlaugs enjoys touring and has performed throughout the US, Canada and Europe, as well as in Tokyo, Japan. "I really like traveling by train in Europe, where you can just relax and reflect. It's a lot different than driving a mini-van in the US. But whenever you tour you never really know what to expect. We once had to get in a tiny little boat to play in Vancouver, and there was almost no room for the upright bass. Also, when you are touring you get to visit little towns that you probably wouldn't go to as a tourist."
The 7 CDs she has released as a leader have consistently met with critical praise over the years, and she has appeared in publications such as JazzTimes, Downbeat, Jazziz, Jazz Podium, Concerto, Stereo, Jazzman, Village Voice, Time Out New York, Swing Journal, Jazzwise, All About Jazz and The Washington Post.
Her last album “The Dream” (featur- ing saxophonist Loren Stillman, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Scott McLemore) jumped straight to #2 on the Canadian jazz charts and to #20 on US CMJ charts...adding new perspective to Time Out New York’s statement that Gunnlaugs is “proof that jazz is as much a part of the picture as the pop of Björk or SigurRos.”
Now living in Iceland, she is usually performing with her trio featuring bassist Þorgrímur Jónsson and Scott McLemore, but also recently toured as a quartet with the addition of saxophonist Óskar Guðjónsson.
On the horizon for 2012 is touring in Europe, US and Canada with her Icelandic trio.