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INTERVIEWS

Esbjorn Svensson: Requiem

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Founder of the Swedish jazz trio, e.s.t., pianist Esbjorn Svensson and his trio were well-known for their jewel-like compositions and varied musical textures with albums including Seven Days of Falling (ACT, 2003) and Strange Place for Snow (ACT, 2002). Topping pop charts as well as garnering awards in Germany, the U.S. and Japan, e.s.t.'s lyricism and elastic imagination bridged both generations and genres since its inception in 1993.

Here, in a previously unpublished interview conducted during the IAJE conference in 2006, Svensson talks about the nature of music, life and the human condition.

ARTIST PROFILES

Remembering Esbjorn Svensson

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The shocking news of the death of Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson in a diving accident off Stochholm, on Saturday 14th June, will surely deeply sadden music lovers everywhere.

I say music lovers, as opposed to strictly jazz lovers, as Svensson himself was neither restricted nor confined by categories, and was perhaps rather perplexed by the need of some to constantly attempt to define what jazz is. The music he recorded and played alongside drummer Magnus Ostrom and bassist Dan Berglund for fifteen years embraced the idiosyncrasy and fun of Thelonious Monk, echoed the drama and penchant for melody ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Esbjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.): Live in Hamburg

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A lot has happened to e.s.t. since its last live album, Live '95 (ACT, 2001). By the time that album hit the streets the trio had already become one of Europe's most successful jazz acts and was beginning to make inroads into the North American market. But e.s.t was still young and hungry when it was recorded back in 1995, having released only When Everyone Has Gone (Dragon, 1993). Live in Hamburg, a full concert recorded in November 2006 shortly after the release of Tuesday Wonderland (ACT, 2006), shows just how far the group has come.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Esbjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.): Tuesday Wonderland

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For its first release to be distributed by a major label since Strange Place for Snow (Columbia, 2002), the Esöjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.) continues to mine and expand the road traveled on Seven Days of Falling (215 Records, 2004) and Viaticum (215 Records, 2005). Tuesday Wonderland doesn't exactly break new ground for e.s.t., but equally it's a gradual evolution of the pop sensibility-meets-jazz improvisation aesthetic that's been a fundamental since the trio first emerged in 1993.

As the group has evolved, the use of electronics has become more prevalent, a potential double-edged sword. Bassist Dan Berglund's sometimes processed acoustic bass, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Esbjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.): Viaticum

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The Esbjörn Svensson Trio, a self-proclaimed “pop group that plays jazz," exists in between the musical realms of the ECM juggernaut Bobo Stenson Trio and art rockers Radiohead. Viaticum represents a culmination of years of relentless cooperative musical discovery for the group, which has been together since 1993.

This music, possessed of a cinematic quality, unfolds in a decidedly un-jazzy way. Rather than resorting to traditional jazz forms that merely serve as a jumping-off point for blowing, the music is presented as a unified whole, giving the impression that each song is through-composed. On the title track, Svensson's ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Esbjrn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.): Viaticum

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While the piano-led trio is one of the staples of jazz, it can conform to tradition so much that it fails to connect with listeners on an emotional level. Not so with E.S.T. This Scandinavian group adheres to the form just enough to be considered a jazz trio, but between original compositions and sound enhancements that can fool you into believing that more than three musicians are playing, E.S.T. is anything but boring. One distinction: The group considers itself a pop band that plays jazz. Also, by using the initials E.S.T. instead of the longhand Esbjörn Svensson ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Esbjrn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.): Viaticum

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The Esbjörn Svensson Trio stayed hidden to my ears until I discovered the existence of Viaticum. The impact of this recording is immediate: it belongs to a new jazz school, in which I don't know who's the teacher and who's the pupil, but where we can find the names of Brad Mehldau--with his Art Of The Trio series--and The Bad Plus, led by pianist Ethan Iverson. With this new way of making jazz, the musicians reach out to an extensive audience, since they introduce such dispersed musical elements and develop them in a paused way. This makes it easy for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Esbjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.): Viaticum

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Together now for over a dozen years, e.s.t. has clearly developed a number of personal stylistic markers. Blending improvisation with a distinct pop sensibility that includes subtle use of electronics--with the exception of Dan Berglund's aggressive fuzztone arco bass--the trio has honed a sound incorporating elements of drum 'n' bass, electronica, funk, pop, classical and rock, without losing sight of its own voice. Often spoken of in the same breath as The Bad Plus, e.s.t. is the more elegant alternative, with considerably more finesse and richer colors than TBP's bombastic and monochromatic approach.

Still, after eight albums including last year's ...

INTERVIEWS

Esbjorn Svensson: What Jazz Is, Not Was

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We're featuring this 2004 interview in memory of Esbjorn Svensson. Svensson died on June 14th at the age of 44. News. Pianist Esbjorn Svensson leads the Swedish group EST, one of the most exciting and original piano trios in jazz today. They've been playing together for over ten years, an extraordinary length of time for a jazz lineup, and have known each other much longer than that. The group has evolved a distinctive style, in which Svensson's alternately impressionistic and driving songs are given novel textures by double-bassist Dan Berglund's ingenious use the bow and effects pedals, ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Esbjorn Svensson Trio: Live at Dakota Jazz Club

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The latest album by EST, Seven Days of Falling, is in all aspects an excellent record, displaying the musicians' ample talent for mixing strong original songs with a fresh approach to the jazz piano trio that tastefully incorporates moods and textures from rock and electronic music. However, to paraphrase guitarist Robert Fripp, albums are calling cards, while live dates are love letters. And nothing on Seven Days of Falling, accomplished as it is, could quite prepare the listener for the hot and heavy missive that EST delivered to a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown ...

LIVE REVIEWS

ISO e.s.t

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Wanted: Jazz trio with the nuance of a dancer, the subtlety and chops of a diamond cutter and the expertise to teach it in Braille. Must be willing to consistently show both love and logic in the face of little recognition of their idiom and a smothering cacophony that believes only in bloodletting, cookie-cutter music.

Despite some logistical issues with the audience, The Esbjorn Svensson Trio fulfilled those requirements November 13th at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. A trio made up of piano, bass and drums in their second tour of the U.S., they gave equal time to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Esbjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.): Seven Days of Falling

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The Esbjörn Svensson Trio, or e.s.t. as it prefers to be known these days, brings luminosity to the art of the piano trio on this, its eighth recording. Credit these three players with a strong sense of musicality and the ability to go past the obvious and build layer upon layer of enticing sonority. The arrangements are clever, letting them spin ideas and move them into unexpected terrain. The continuous changing and shaping of structure lends a sharp edge that makes this one heck of a delightful album. And how marvellous it is to see that the mainstream still swells ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Esbjorn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.): Seven Days of Falling

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Now in their tenth year, the Swedish piano trio e.s.t. has gradually evolved into a significant force on the European scene, playing to packed houses and releasing records that figure on jazz and pop charts. Why they've never managed to achieve the same level of success in North America is a mystery. The more elegant alternative to the Bad Plus, they share a similar penchant for song-like structure, but with a more delicate approach, clearly rooted in Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, as opposed to the Bad Plus' roots in Thelonious Monk. They even shared labels, with Columbia releasing the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Nils Landgren/Esbjorn Svensson: Swedish Folk Modern

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Contrary to Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch, jazz is no longer an American or, even more specifically, Afro-American art form. Jazz has, in fact, always been about incorporating music from various traditions, folk and otherwise, into something of a cultural melting pot. While American musicians including John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis looked to African music and, more close-to-home, blues as sources to be developed and evolved, so do artists from other parts of the world, including Jan Garbarek and Anouar Brahem, look to their own traditional music for inspiration. Now ACT has chosen to reissue the 1998 recording ...



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