Pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs performed with bassist Thorgrimur Jonsson and drummer Scott McLemore at Tula’s last month in an Earshot Jazz presentation that was sublime and delightful.
Also the trio on Gunnlaugs’ latest release, Long Pair Bond (2011), the patient and measured group works in a sonic space redolent of familiar environments – dynamic and sometime dusky Reykjavik, Iceland, bordered by sea and mountains. On her first trio album since her debut in 1997, a now more mature Gunnlaugs presents this music with a humble awareness and connectedness.
Gunnlaugs writes about her recent experience at performance hall Sendesaal at the jazzahead! conference in Bremen, Germany: “It was humbling to sit down at the Steinway D in this beautiful room and think that this was where Keith Jarrett played his solo concert (the Bremen part at least) and that Thelonious Monk had played there and also Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Jan Garbarek with Bobo Stenson and the list goes on. Holy moley. Humbling? Yes sir! We all just loved the sound in there.”
As a child on the small Seltjarnarnes peninsula not far from Reykjavik, Gunnlaugs began taking lessons on the organ. It was the gift of a Bill Evans trio record, You’re Gonna Hear from Me, that brought her to modern jazz. Not long after, in Brooklyn, fresh from the William Patterson University jazz program in New Jersey, Gunnlaugs featured connections with Tony Malaby, Drew Gress and drummer-cum-husband McLemore on the 1999 recordings Mindful and Songs from Iceland. Mindful was chosen as one of the top ten CDs of the year by the Virginian Pilot; Songs from Iceland, released a decade later, features Gunnlaugs’ special relationship with the material – five Icelandic folk songs that Gunnlaugs grew up with. “These were tunes that we were playing on concerts … it seemed important to document,” she says.
Gunnlaugs enjoys touring and has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. Seven releases as a leader have consistently met critical praise. Now living in Iceland, she frequently performs with her Iceland trio featuring bassist Jonsson and drummer McLemore. More about Sunna Gunnlaugs at sunnagunnlaugs.com and sunnagunnlaugs.bandcamp.com.