Here is a CD review from the April 2013 issue of Cadence
SONGS FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD
BIRTHDAY-AMMÆLI / JUNGLE DRUM / IS IT TRUE? / RÚDOLF / ÞÚ KOMST VIÐ HJARTAÐ Í MÉR / STOLT SIGLIR / FLEYIÐ MITT / ANIMAL ARITHMETIC / FATLAFÓL / ARMY OF ME / ÚT Á STOPPUSTÖÐ / CAN’T WALK AWAY / FJÖLLIN HAFA VAKAÐ / ÁLFAR. 55:54
Karl Olgeirsson, p; Kristinn Snær Agnarsson, d; Jón Rafnsson, b. May 9-11, 2011, Hafnarfjörður, Iceland.
The Icelandic trio Hot Eskimos offers an individualized program of songs from their native country along with tunes originally introduced to the public by internationally known Icelandic performers. While they do function as an excellent straight-ahead mainstream jazz trio at times, as on “Jungle Drum,” “Ut A Stoppistod,” and parts of “Rudolf,” and they whip up a fine funk/boogaloo groove on “Fatlafol,” much of what they play features spare, slow-moving harmonies and melodic lines that often lack a traditional swing feel. The Sugarcubes’ “Birthday,” for example, is based essentially on two chords and produces a somewhat static “open” ambiance, and although the singer Bjork’s “Army of me” contains interesting tempo changes, the slow sections mostly avoid any sense of swing. But that is not intended as negative commentary. What they do, they do well. The three of them are on the same page at all times. Their music sounds well-planned and is professionally performed. Still, it might be more meaningful to American audiences who are familiar with their mostly esoteric source material. Without that, their debut album is simply nice to listen to.
Songs From The Top Of The World (2011, JR Music JRCD011)
Thirteen »Songs from the Top of the World« is what the »Hot Eskimos« are presenting, and then there are sheep flying across the image on the cover photo. In addition that you can find in the cover design: a recipe for the »Hot Eskimo Shot« with Tequila, Icelandic Brennivin and lime juice. This is surely no usual jazz trio. Bass player Jón Rafnsson told Karl »Kalli« Olgeirsson (piano) about his idea to play well-known Icelandic pop songs in jazz arrangements. So they asked drummer Kristinn Snær »Kiddi« Agnarsson, if he was in the mood to come over and jam over some songs. As these early recordings came easy, were fun and convinced the musicians when they heard them again, they went into the studio in May 2011, to release the recordings on Rafnsson’s own label.
Sometimes it’s as simple as that. The debut album was born – and a new trio with it at the same time. Those who are familiar with the Icelandic music scene will be happy to
(re-)discover lots of songs and will be entertained splendidly. For example, the trio finds pleasure in looking at Björk’s »Army of me« from new perspectives. However, if you are not familiar with the pop hits, you will not hear a lot more than a cheerful jazz album, which no doubt makes for a good time, but sometimes you’d wish for a few more bold moments instead of the apparent fulfillment of expectations. (ijb – nordische-musik.de)
Jazz Special – a Danish Jazz Magazine
Hot Eskimos er en trio fra Island, som har udsendt en plade med Islandske rocktemaer fra gamle orkestre som Theyr og Sugarcubes, hvor en vis Björk foldede sig ud. Hun er også representeret med signaturen Army of me. Der er ligeledes numre fra Emiliana Torrini og Sigur Ros og i det hele taget virker Hot Eskimos godt tilpas med Islands store bidrag til musikkulturen. Og trion leverer sine versioner frisk og frejdigt, på måden vi kender andre trioer som EST og Bad Plus på. (Jazz Special #136 – Allan Sommer)
Hot Eskimos, ”Songs From the Top of the World” (JR Music 2011)
For me this is a piano trio not to be missed, a fun, young and modern group playing some of their own music as well as some Icelandic pop in the style of groups like Bad Plus, The Tingvall Trio, and other modernists. Lots to like here — bouncy, catchy tunes, some balladry, and a lot of interweaving of sounds. Karl Olgeirsson on piano, Kristinn Snaer Agnarsson on drums, and Jon Rafnsson on bass make up this terrrific trio.
Hot Eskimos interview by Bartek Wilk / Poland