Jazz Reviews : Icelandic Guitar Player Gets Hot at Lunaria’s

Icelandic guitar players are not exactly a dime a dozen. Thus, the recent appearance at Lunaria’s of Jon Pall Bjarnason, a product of Reykjavik’s Music College, was indubitably a first.

Although Bjarnason has been in this country for several years, it was only last year that he formed a jazz group and recorded it for a Canadian label. The quartet heard at Lunaria, using the same personnel, left no doubt about the leader’s natural sense of swing and linear creativity.

Bjarnason at his best is a relaxed, unpretentious performer. His “Darn That Dream” was the only number that gave him an immediate chance to state a melody in the first chorus--a task usually given to reedman Ray Pizzi--and create interesting variations in the second before Pizzi took over.

Pizzi’s presence at times seems to overwhelm Bjarnason, if only because he often plays the opening theme and then solos on various instruments. He seems most at ease on flute; once, on the old Charlie Parker tune “Moose the Mooche,” he made effective use of a bassoon.


Completing the group were the ubiquitous Andy Simpkins, whose virtuosity on upright bass seems to keep him busy eight days a week, and Lew Malin on drums.

Bjarnason, hidden too long in commercial jobs, is a welcome addition to the local jazz scene.