The megawatt talent of Icelandic jazz pianist and free improviser Agnar Mar Magnusson is rightly considered a jewel in the Reykjavik jazz crown, so it was with great excitement that we learned that he will be sharing his latest project at this year's Reykjavik Jazz Festival, which begins on Saturday August 18th – and it sounds like anything could happen! Magnusson spoke to us about his tour with Latin singer Jussanam and what the super-cool RJF means to him…
Hello Agnar, what are you up to today?
I’m writing to you from Norway. I've been super busy. I’m playing here in Haugesund, Sildajazz festival with my organ band, ASA trio. ASA trio are going to make our second album, this time with original music. I’m also touring with Jussanam DaSilva, through Scandinavia. I’m going to compose music for my own record, due in 2013, and I will also be working in the Reykjavik theatre as a musical director in Mary Poppins. ? ? ?
Wow! Super busy indeed. So, as you mentioned, you are appearing in always great Reyjkavik Jazz Festival this year – ?tell us a bit about what you will be doing.
It’s my solo piano project. I have wanted to do something like that for a long time but never knew exactly what to do. So in the end I just went to Vonarsalur at SAA, and got a great recording engineer who left me there for two days and I just played pretty much anything that came to my mind. Some tunes, and a lot of free improvisations. I’m listening to the recordings and the free stuff seems to be the best of what I did so, a CD is coming out with those recordings this Fall. I will do just that at the gig in RJF, show up and play whatever comes to my mind. The plan is to keep it all improvised so, it’s pretty challenging but very exciting at the same time.? ?
We love the RJF – what does it mean to you?
The RJF is a great venue for us the Icelandic jazz musicians. There we can cooperate with fellow musicians from other countries and meet, and hear new music from all over, so it’s great.? ?
And who are you looking forward to seeing/hearing?
Thord Gustavsen, Bill Frissell, and Ari Bragi’s band. There are of course many others too.? ?
You have been working with the singer Jussanam – how did ?that collaboration come about?
She called me for a duo gig at the RJF a few years ago. Her band did not make it for the gig so she called me, even though we had never played together. ? ?
Tell us a bit about the tour you are working on together?
We are touring through a few places in Iceland and then we will play in Scandinavia, starting in Gothenburg then Copenhagen, Malmo, Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki.?
?The Latin / Nordic blend is interesting, isn't it?
Yes, but I try to do my best to sound less Nordic and more Latin when I play with her. It’s a challenge, but one that I welcome. ?
What first got you into jazz? Who are your heroes?
When I think back it seems that I was improvising way before I got into jazz. The label did not appeal to me. Then I started studying at the FIH music school and got to hear and experience all kinds of new stuff. I usually say that when I heard Kenny Kirkland’s solo on Bring On The Night
by Sting, was the time when I decided to become a jazz musician. It just blew me away.
My current heroes are Larry Goldings, Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau. ? ?
How would you say the Icelandic jazz scene is evolving?
I think it is growing at a steady pace. Fortunately people are still going abroad for further study after finishing FIH here in Iceland, so they bring new stuff here with them, from Europe and the US. So it all blends here quite nicely, with the Icelandic influence. ?