Sunna Gunnlaugs

All I Want to Hear for Christmas

December 8, 2009 3:05 pm | Filed under: Music | Comments (5)
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It's beginning to look a lot like….Christmas! (I'm writing this in my green reindeer pajama pants.) As a teacher, I find it interesting that kids and teenagers can't wait to play Christmas tunes while the grown up students want to wait as long as possible. They usually end up waiting too long and not being able to really get more than one tune or so together before Christmas break. The connotation Christmas music has is so different for the two groups. It's really unfortunate but commercialism has done its damage. Instead of associating peace and gratefulness with Christmas, some people get stressed over all the obligations to full fill and expectations to meet, not to mention the post-holiday financial hangover. (read more…)

Happy Birthday Thelonious

October 13, 2009 12:28 am | Filed under: Music | Comments (4)
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Saturday was the birthday of pianist and composer Thelonious Monk (October 10, 1917 – February 17, 1982) so I wanted to write a little something in his honor. First and foremost, he was unusual, and the uniqueness and peculiarities of Monk's personality were perfectly reflected in his music. This is partially the secret to his success. He put so much of himself into how he played, and the tunes he wrote that as a listener you can't help but feel some sense of kinship with him. He put himself out there as an artist, naked. He wasn't polished technically, but he was advanced in his own way. His melodies are very angular and rhythmic but catchy at the same time. Some are incredibly simple. Some deceptively so. His own sound on the piano was a bit square and clunky, but in a charming way. Most composers are very loyal to their tunes but Monk was one of few who might change his own tunes a bit from gig to gig. (read more…)

The Best Pianist

October 9, 2009 12:19 am | Filed under: Music | Comments (4)
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A few weeks ago I posted on my facebook fan-page and on twitter this question "Who do you think is the best jazz pianist ever?" However, I could have asked "Who's your favorite jazz pianist?" and gotten much different responses. The replies were interesting because most people don't necessarily just think about who is the best in terms of technical abilities on the instrument but combine it with who appeals the most to them musically, and that's the beauty of it. Technical abilities don't really mean much if the music (or the emotional content to connect with the listener) isn't there. But then again, without the technical abilities one may not be able to execute the ideas to communicate the emotion. It takes two to tango.

The nominees were (read more…)

5 Gateway Albums to Jazz

October 1, 2009 12:16 am | Filed under: Music | Comments (3)
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Patrick Jarenwattananon at A blog Supreme asked a few jazz bloggers to pick 5 albums that they thought might bring the open-minded listener into the jazz of today. However, more people responded, and by following the link to his site one can find samples and recommendations of quality jazz being performed today.

It is, of course, impossible to pick 5 albums that could magically appeal equally to listeners from various backgrounds such as heavy metal, classical, electronica etc. I used to live in Brooklyn, so my contribution to this discussion is heavily influenced by the music I experienced there. So here goes. (read more…)

Solo Piano

September 11, 2009 8:50 am | Filed under: Music | Comments (3)
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This year I was asked to give a solo piano performance at the Reykjavik Jazz Festival with rather short notice. I had never given a solo concert before besides the occasional cocktail gig, and so to me it was a welcomed challenge.

In search of inspiration I listened to three pianists playing solo. All of them have a very personal approach. Bill Evans, not concerned with walking bass or playing stride says it all with his beautiful chords; Django Bates walks, strides and paints with nuttiness on Autumn Fires (And Green Shoots); and Keith Jarrett gets these incredible grooves happening on the Sun Bear Concerts. Well, as Jarrett says on Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, after playing so much with a rhythm section the left hand is almost like an appendage for jazz pianists.

Having this performance coming up (and in the company of 4 other fine Icelandic jazz pianists, I might add: Agnar Már Magnússon, Árni Heiðar Karlsson, Eythor Gunnarsson and Davið Þór Jónsson) was a good kick in the you-know-what to start giving that left hand some T.L.C.
It would probably have been easier to play a standard, the standard way, but I wanted to present a personal approach so I played two tunes of mine and one interpretation of a folk song. Now I am fascinated by the art of playing solo piano and plan to develop it more. Here's a video of 'A Garden Someday' from that performance:

Other solo piano albums that I love include (read more…)