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Esbjorn Svensson Trio: e.s.t. live in london

Karl Ackermann By

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In the ten years since the Esbjörn Svensson Trio came to a tragic end, a handful of piano trios have shown a trace of promise in becoming successors to the eclectic pianist's group. Capturing the raw energy that coalesced jazz, classical, rock, and technique in their unique way has been elusive. Since Svensson's accidental death in 2008 ACT Music has released Leucocyte (2008) and 301 (2012). The latter of the two consists of tracks that were recorded during the Leucocyte sessions but did not make the final cut. They were hardly throwaways however, as both recordings indicated that e.s.t.'s improvisational revolution was still a work in progress. Both of those albums represented the most powerful and open music they had recorded to that point. ACT also released E.S.T. Symphony (2017), a fine tribute-recording with Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and various artists including e.s.t. bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Ostrom. Now the label has issued e.s.t. live in london.

e.s.t. live in london was recorded at the Barbican Centre in 2005. The double CD set—also available as a two-LP vinyl release—updates pieces from Strange Place for Snow (2002), Seven Days of Falling (2003) and Viaticum (2005). From the latter of those three albums, Disc 1 seamlessly segues across "Tide of Trepidation," "Eighty-Eight Days in My Veins" and the title track, all patiently building in tension. Svensson's crystalline piano moves in and out of focus and then—with the help of Berglund's arco and plucked bass—brings this particular portion of the program to a beautifully-rendered conclusion.

The live versions of "Mingle in the Mincing-Machine" from Strange Place for Snow and "The Unstable Table & the Infamous Fable" ( Viaticum ) are indicators of where the group would end up musically. With a rock-sensibility woven around Berglund's classic bass line, Svensson's tight choreography and Öström's highly analytical improvisations, these pieces would be at home on Leucocyte. If there is a "classic" e.s.t. track, it is "Behind The Yashmak" and here, at nearly half the length of the second disc, it is a true masterpiece of modern jazz.

e.s.t. live in london asks that we once again consider the magnitude of this trio. Their body of work has helped to broaden the definition of jazz, as it has not been redefined again in the passing ten years. As a composer and improviser, Svensson ranks among the finest of a generation; Öström employs hard-hitting undulation and intriguing embellishments as he intertwines the rumble of progressive rock with the spray of nuanced inflections; Berglund's bottomless, woody tone and brilliant bowed bass-work both drive and color the music. It is a trio that, a decade on, seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. e.s.t. live in london is highly recommended and an essential for collectors who believe that jazz is meant to be a fluid, shifting genre.

Track Listing: CD1: Tide of Trepidation; Eighty-Eight Days in My Veins; Viaticum; Mingle in the Mincing-Machine; In the Tail of Her Eye; The Unstable Table & the Infamous Fable. CD2: When God Created the Coffeebreak; Behind the Yashmak; Believe, Beleft, Below; Spunky Sprawl.

Personnel: Esbjörn Svensson: piano; Dan Berglund: bass; Magnus Öström: drums.

Title: e.s.t. live in london | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: ACT Music

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