Review in Washington Post, USA::
Saturday July 31, 2004

Sunna Gunnlaugs Quartet
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Thursday July 29, 2004

The Sunna Gunnlaugs Quartet performed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts on Thursday night as a part of its ongoing concert series, "Cool Countries, Hot Music." Pianist Gunnlaugs certainly qualified for the program in one respect: She grew up near Reykjavik, Iceland. But the jazz her quartet plays isn't "hot" so much as it is intriguing, blending folk elements with sophisticated harmonic schemes, contrasting idyllic passages with fitful rhythms and brash, sometimes dissonant improvisations.

Now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., gunnlaugs performed a set entirely devoted to original compositions. None was more lovely or evocative than her own ballad "A Garden Someday," a blues-tinted reverie that showcased saxophonist Loren Stillman's soulful alto and Gunnlaugs's lyrical touch. Drummer Scott McLemore's "Over Yonder," on the other hand, presented the quartet, and particularly Stillman, in a far more dramatic and harmonically restive light, at least until the tune slid into an easy swing groove. another peculiar delight was Gunnlaugs's "Smack 'Em," a 12-tone-row-inspired piece that didn't sound nearly as methodical as you might think.

Stillman and bassist John Hebert, who projected a resounding tone, shared a lot of solo space with Gunnlaugs during the evening, and the contrapuntal weaves they created made some of the arrangements appear intricately textured. The concert ended before Gunnlaugs had a chance to imaginatively recast an Icelandic folk tune, as she's done in the past, but there was no mistaking her talent or the distinctive niche she's carved out for her band.

– Mike Joyce.