More than a decade after a tragic diving accident ended Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson
's life and thus dissolved his renowned trio, the group remains a potent force in the world of popular jazz recordings. This digital document from a 2001 concert in Gothenburg seems certain to perpetuate that legacy.
While much of this album is comprised of fairly standard piano-based aesthetics, the remarkable skills displayed by Svensson, drummer Magnus Ostrom
and bassist Dan Berglund
, in technical prowess and improvisational composition, are apparent on every song. The first things to stand out in this album's divine production are extremely lifelike tings from Ostrum's drumsticks and cymbals on the elegantly energetic "Dating," and the brushwork on "Somewhere Else Before."
The opening sequence of "The Rube Thing" seems to illustrate the stream of consciousness from Svensson's brain to his fingers. The track includes some resounding solo bass and, as the band kicks into high gear, there are characteristics of the three-way cohesion which classic jam bands like Cream
previewed in the 1960s.
That remarkably fitting sense of singular, orbiting ideas progressing to group unity continues as "From Gangarin's Point of View" lifts off following Berglund's slightly enhanced prelude, and shows that e.s.t. didn't need to posture or rock wildly in wielding such prodigious precision. Solo keys develop for around a minute on "Providence," as a warm-up mode simmers intensely and heats into an exceptional territory of alternating motifs. Berglund's sparkling, light touch, behind the song's initial bass solo, kicks the band's dynamic up a notch, like a musical version of three-dimensional speed chess.
"Good Morning Susie Soho" is highlighted by percussive, call-and-response interplay, illuminating the instinctive bond Svensson and Ostrum built on since playing together in their earliest bands, around 1990. The song segues into the beautiful, keyboard dreamscape of "The Chapel," with a relatively brief solo, dramatically invoked by magnificent touch and timing. The album fits in well with previous live releases e.s.t. Live in Hamburg
(ACT, 2007) and e.s.t. Live in London
(ACT, 2018), with a variation of "The Rube Thing" from the former being the single common selection. Around a third of the album has a very subdued tempo, but the record is generally upbeat, and the technical intricacies are exciting enough through dexterity alone.
"The Wraith," "Dodge the Dodo" and "Good Morning Susie Soho" feature a bit of the distortion, marking early abstract milestones. While this concert may fit chronologically prior to a transitional shift to one of more added electronic effects, the band's later status includes overstated, even erroneous praise for exploring drastically new musical directions or creating a previously unknown style. It isn't sacrilege to imply that overall, and especially at the time of this recording, e.s.t. weren't really stretching any boundaries further than some added effects. They were a progressive piano trio that didn't need to blaze any trails beyond the popularity they inspired in relatively young European audiences, and this set reflects a conservative format of traditionally rotating instrumentation. The main thing e.s.t. continues to prove is that musical excellence is its own reward, and there are rewards in every song here.
Where and how far the band might have progressed will never be known, but with this release it is easy to verify that, in the annals of modern jazz, where e.s.t. was in Gothenburg on this October night would become sacred ground, indeed.