Artist-2-Artist #7 :: Sunna Gunnlaugs vs Ari Bragi Kárason
May 23rd, 2017 | IMX Inside Iceland
Now that we’re back on the Artist-2-Artist train, they are coming in thick and fast. This edition, we’re going for a jazz vibe. Those pesky pop-stars have been hogging all the limelight so its time to delve deep into the heads of two local jazz greats that are consistently delivering musical delights and keep the Icelandic jazz scene thriving.
We asked Sunna Gunnlaugs to ask Ari Bragi Kárason some very probing questions…
Sunna is a jazz pianist and the name behind the Sunna Gunnlaugs Jazz Trio. She is also the gun behind the annual Reykjavík Jazz Festival happening this August.
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.
Ari is a sought after trumpet player (performs with Mezzoforte, Annes, Sigurros, Hjaltalín and Melismetiq among other groups) He is also an award winning runner and runs with the Icelandic national team.
Haven’t you always wondered what makes jazz heads tick? Well, look no further.
Sunna: I bet you start your day with a nice cup of espresso and some music right?
Ari: Always ! I love setting up my day straight with breakfast, coffee and something to listen to. Lately I have been listening to Podcast’s in the morning, something insightful and meaningful, gives me inspiration for the day. But it’s hard to stop the music player in your head so I guess I have music on ALL DAY..!
Sunna: Awesome. So trumpet or running… which comes first?
Ari: Music comes first for sure – having said that I like to think that they hold each others hand quite nicely. Being an active person and high energy I get frustrated sitting around playing the instrument or what ever I do artistically so running becomes an outlet. At least that is how I am rationalising this ball-juggle these days …
Sunna: You and I and some other hip musicians are from the tiny peninsula of Seltjarnarnes. You have 3 seconds to name our common inspiration.
Sunna: ha ha did you grow up on the north side?
Ari: guess some how at Setljarnarnes everything is the north side.. ha ha ha
Sunna: So I hear you have a new album coming out with some super cool players. Is this your project or a group effort?
Ari: YES! Super exciting and been in the air for some time now. It’s a band called MELISMETIQ that me and the drummer, Arthur Hnatek started back in NewYork some years ago. We wanted to do a band were we could play more music that we loved, more european I guess, against all of New York.
Sunna: OMG against NY! You must be brave boys. What do you feel is the main difference between the European approach and New York approach?
Ari: Agains all the NewYork-isms we were doing all the time. Make it a bit more simple and melodic and let it breath somehow. We instantly thought about Shai and things turned out that first time we played we actually got really energetic and aggressive which I guess was the results of our being at the time but now we found a more calm sound and I think the album grasps that really well !
I think the NewYork sound has that “hard-hitting” sound. Execute and nail it. European is more relaxed and open.
Sunna: Nice! And who is the fourth person?
Ari: The fourth person is Rick Rosato on bass. His contribution to the sound of the band is exactly what we had in mind.
Sunna: I look forward to hearing it. When is the CD release concert?
Ari: It is on the 12th of August @ Harpa in Reykjavik at the Reykjavik JazzFestival. We are SUPER excited !
Sunna: What are you going to do with the guys while in Iceland? Blue Lagoon? Got some favourite spots in town?
Ari: I have to get creative since all of them have been to Iceland before. I will think of something. We might actually try to use the time to jump one day in to a studio here in Reykjavik and record something.
Sunna: Have you served them some Icelandic delicacies such as fermented shark and scorched sheep heads?
Ari: They will definitely have some of that! We all have different nationalities. Icelandic, Swiss, Canada and Israel so the culmination of delicacies is broad so I will have to make my mark on that with some of Iceland’s treasures!
Sunna: Totally! Just a few quick ones. Do you have a favourite project as a sideman?
Ari: Going on the road with Mezzoforte is great but not really any tours that stand out. Being on stage is the best part no matter what the band is. I loved going to Asia with Mezzoforte and seeing the appreciation for instrumental music over there. It was a great reminder for me that the power of the melody is the strongest one in music.
Sunna: ah right. Are you a Eurovision fan? I bet you voted for Portugal.
Ari: Not a fan of Eurovision but watched it this year and could not believe when Portugal performed. The string arrangement was amazing and the performance great as well. The melody was honest and It clearly resonated with a lot of people in these chaotic times.
Sunna: What about any routines before a gig. Meditation, no kissing (to save the lips), fresh shot of ginger?
Ari: I do have a small routine. I try to focus on the task at hand and think about playing the best that I can – as honest as I can every time. The outcome of that often surprises me and it was something I had to do because I was feeling more and more after gig’s that I was not being honest about what I was as a musician.
Call it meditation or call it focus.
Not a fan of no kissing…
Sunna: ha ha. Alright, thanks and good luck running with Melismetiq