Friday, 30 November 2007


My father Thor has his own garage band, or at least knows some guys who come over to jam jazz-style every so often. He had a pretty rockin' music career here in Iceland back in 1958-59, singing and drumming with some of the very best talent on the island at the time, many who are now considered legendary, including singer Ellý Vilhjálms. After just a few years in show business he made the decision to enlist in the US Navy, a choice he's never regrette. He's always drummed though, instinctively, every time he hears good music - on the steering wheel, on a desk, while watching tv...anywhere! : ) It's pretty cool that he's still at it, but I suppose one never un-becomes a musician, do they? I asked him to give up some detail on the guys who sat in on this session and here's what he wrote:

From left to right: Friðrik Theodorsson or Frikki T. on trombone, new
to me, Jón Möller on piano, he was one of first guys I played with at
the age of 17, me and Hans Jensson tenor sax. Hans was in the original
Elvar Berg Band from the 60's.

With music, you just get better with time!

Dad also translated into English an article that appeared in the Morgunblaðið newspaper this week, and I thought it would be fun to post it. Here goes:

Quality Jam with Stone…..

Famous in the story of Icelandic jazz is when the Austrian piano master Friedrick Gulda came to Reykjavik, played Beethoven with the symphony then wound up at a jam session where Gunnar Ormslev, Jón Páll, Bjössi Bassi and others played with the American drummer Gene Stone.

Gulda hadn’t thought about sitting down at the piano but after listening to Gene play with the others could not resist and got into it. This was such a memorable, rare event in European jazz that it’s still talked about. Now 37 years later Stone is again in Reykjavik and drove one of the most enjoyable jam sessions ever heard on our ”Frozen Rock”.

It must be fun for a base player to have a swinging “driver” at the drums and bassist Þorgrímur Jónsson was inspired. Great bass tones took advantage of the packed Duckling and his solo’s were short, well build, spiced. Jón Páll played the guitar like he did 37 years ago but better and more mature. He touched every nerve in “Round Midnight” and his solo in “I Hear A Rhapsody” was packed with energy. Sigurður Flosason (alto sax), Ólafur Jónsson (tenor sax) and Óskar Guðjónsson (soprano and tenor sax), had great moments and it was pure pleasure to listen to them in “Lover Man” which critics agree that this take and a recording back in 1976 featuring Ormslev, Rúnar Georgs(tenor sax) and Jón Páll are truly the most memorable moments in Icelandic jazz.

Ellington’s exiting “Caravan” and “Tizolsvar” the end numbers were up tempo and Stone played his solo reminiscent of Buddy Rich and the horns along with Jón Páll spiced their solos with eastern influence in the style of old Hollywood movies. A very enjoyable and artistic performance.

Critic: Vernhard Linnet

Monday, 26 November 2007


Painted rainbows and flowers defy the onslaught of frosty arctic winds at the Freyjugata playground near our home. Once again, though, this snow didn't last longer than a day and a night, and has since melted away under drizzly rains.

It is dark in the mornings and evenings, though, and I'm going to offer a little psa* here by highly encouraging visitors in the dimmer seasons to have some kind of reflective item on them while walking about. It may seem nerdy to have a dangling plastic reflector badge pinned to your fancy coat, but it's better than getting hit by a car. Period. Go to a bike store and get something like the stuff seen here and remember to look both ways while crossing, especially at the t-intersection just in front of Hallgrímskirkja. As can be seen in that photo, drivers seriously cut the turn there and we don't want any injured visitors, now do we?

*public service announcement

Friday, 23 November 2007


The darkness and rains beautifully enhance the winter lights draped among the bare trees of the city. Every year there seems to be more of them, helping to ease us through the season, especially as the snows, with their soft white glow, come less and less frequently.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Skyline Rvk

Good things come in small packages. This definitely fits for the itsy-bitsy city of Reykjavik (expanding suburbs exempt).

After a long weekend in sprawling Paris with its Napoleon III tracts of Hausmann housing running for miles, I'm glad to be back in the heart of a compact metropolis, richer for the experience.

Thursday, 15 November 2007


Out in Grafarvogur, or Grave Valley, a twenty minute drive from downtown Reykjavik, is this little downtownish shopping complex wrapped conveniently around a decent sized parking lot. Its called Spöngin, and surprisingly it's very lively for a suburban mini-mall. It's become what mini-mall designers hope their malls will become: a place to gather, shop and greet. It helps that there's a college, Borgarholtsskóli, a stone's throw away, and a good set of core stores. There's even a gym, filled to the brim on any given Tuesday with the healthy and fit, as seen through the World Class window above.

Read this little article to get a cool view of literary culture surging out of this largest of Reykjavik's many, ever-spreading suburbs. The writers in this Gravarvogur Writers Club prove that explosive things can come out of even the quietest of places.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


Just a little eye candy...

This is not the Icelandic national hairdo, but just a fancy net job for a young gymnastics competitor who performed very nicely in her events. Psychologically, the hairdo helps!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


The Westman Islands, Vestmannaeyjar, are these fanatastic volcanic sculptures rising from the Atlantic just south of Iceland. They are a mere ten to twenty thousand years young, basically the tops of massive magma cones jutting vigorously out of the cold arctic waters at that seam in the earth's crust we call the Reykjanes Ridge.

Getting ready for our retreat from the big island of Heimaey on Sunday after Valentina's (and her team Ármann's) excellent victory in gymnastics, I thought I was all set to discourage anyone and everyone from traveling to Vestmannaeyjar by sea on the ferry Herjólfur. After all, the waters between Iceland proper and the Wetsmans are notoriously unsettling at best and our trip over with two hundred little gymnasts on Friday night had been a gut-wrenching experience. But as the ship left dock we passed through the amazing strait shown above and I changed my mind. The five minute sail past eerie rock faces through calm deep turquoise waters somehow made the impending three hours of probable seasickness seem worth it.

I myself will fly next time I go, and I will go to the islands again. I'd say a flight over then a tour of the archipelago with one of the local boat companies is the way to experience the absolute magic of the Westman Islands in the best possible health. I'm sure the other hundreds of nauseous travelers with me on the ferry rides would agree. Of course if you have to do the ferry, take lots of warm clothing and stand at the rails, taking in the awsome power of the ocean. It kept me fresh and absolutely magnified my respect for those who brave the open seas.

(Here also is an interesting site on techtonic movement. Enjoy!)

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


A Sunday afternoon scene from the Westman Islands, or Vestmannareyjar, off of Iceland's south coast. I'll go more into detail later on the hows and whys Valentina and I were there this past weekend later, but for now take in the photos at Nick's and Bard's sites and read about these natural gems of the sea at the very attractive Visit Westman Islands site.