Founded in Reykjavic in 1977 by four teenagers – Fridrik Karlson (guitar), Eythor Gunnarson (keyboards), Johann Asmundsson (bass), and Gulli Briem (drums) - MEZZOFORTE had their ultimate breakthrough with their fourth album, which was by then the biggest international success in Icelandic music history. In 1983 the band released their first album SURPRISE-SURPRISE, which went international. The Single Garden Party taken from that album immediately hit the charts in Iceland, but also in Japan, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Germany and various other countries.
The four teens had never dreamed of such a big success when they came together for the band at the age of 15. “Right after our first session we knew that we would stay together.”, says guitarist Fridrik Karlson. “Although we didn’t know each other very well it quickly turned out that we all went for the same type of music and artists like Earth Wind & Fire, Weather Report, George Duke, Chick Corea, Return To Forever or Deep Purple.
In the following six years the ‘boy group’ experimented musically and recorded three more records in Iceland, before they came up with their own unique style of instrumental funkjazz.
With the success of Surprise-Surprise and the joining of saxophonist Kristinn Svavarsson the quintet moved to England. During the two years the band lived in the UK they released with Observations and Rising and the first compilation Catching Up With MEZZOFORTE two further albums, and toured Europe and Japan.
Back in Iceland (Svavarsson had left the band at that time) the four founding members went into the studio and recorded the album No Limits, which was released in 1985. For the first time the band broke with their tradition of being strictly instrumental – the English singer Noel McCalla joined the band for live-gigs and with their tour through Europe MEZZOFORTE’s concert performances gained the reputation of a “must-see”.
After No Limits the band took a break from touring and recording, and set up their own studio in Reykjavic. The four (on their own and as a group) got involved with numerous productions, sessions, and concerts of different artists.
In 1989, now signed to BMG Ariola they released their new album Playing For Time and did almost all the recording and production work themselves. After the release they went on an extensive tour.
Between 1991 and 1993 the band members were engaged in various productions, played gigs, taught music and toured Indonesia and Malaysia with the sax man Kåre Kolve – however they found the time to put together another two albums: the compilation Fortissimos (1991) and their now 10th album Daybreak (1993).
In 1994 the four band members went their own ways for the time being. Drummer Gulli Briem left for Los Angeles to study music. Guitarist Fridrik Karlsson played sessions in England and Iceland, took part in the soundtrack of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita, and produced other bands. Bass player Johann Asmundsson concentrated mainly on studio work, whereas Eythor Gunnarsson followed his production activities and played with the REYKJAVIC JAZZ QUARTET. They were so busy that it was not before spring 1995 that they met up in the countryside for a writing session. And a couple of months later in 1996 MEZZOFORTE’s so far latest album was released. The period since then was filled with several more gigs and sessions, teaching music, and producing or featuring CDs of other artists.
Now in the 21st century, in 2004, twenty-seven years after the band was founded they are survivors of a time of diverse ups and downs. Full of fresh and creative ideas, and curiously about the things to come MEZZOFORTE with all its founding members on board rushed into the studio to record Forward Motion. The sound has definitely matured and although lots of new elements were added, the fizzy MEZZOFORTE-Groove didn’t lose anything of its uniqueness, which has gained international reputation.
The co-producer of Forward Motion is by the way no less a person than the German star drummer Wolfgang Haffner, a long-time friend of the band.
MEZZOFORTE as a band holds a very special place in their native Iceland. After all they are the first Icelandic musicians to attract the world’s musical focus on the little island. They showed that there is great music and virtuous artists to be found, that are full of joy and energy. MEZZOFORTE paved the way for the triumphal march of many Icelandic and Scandinavian artists throughout the world.