Label: The ACT Company – ACT 9012-2
Genre: Modern Jazz
Sadly E.S.T or to give them their full name Esbjorn Svensson Trio are no longer with us, Esbjorn Svensson being a keen diver unfortunately lost his life to this other passion in a freak accident off the coast of Sweden in 2008 ending the trio’s very successful career rather abruptly. E.S.T started life way back in 1993 and grew quickly to critic acclaim and success in their homeland of Sweden on the Superstition Gul label but it wasn’t until their 1999 release “From Gagarin’s Point of View” reissued on the renowned German Jazz label, The ACT Company, that they gained international recognition and success. The trio comprises Esbjörn Svensson (Piano), Dan Berglund (double bass) and Magnus Öström (drums) but don’t let that fool you into seeing these guys as a classic Jazz trio they are far from it, by fusing contemporary styles from Rock, Pop and Techno with some Classsical overtones they’ve put a very modern flavour into Modern Jazz which has allowed them to reach out to younger audiences and garner much critical acclaim with their very unique sound.
E.S.T are hard to pin down to any one style of Modern Jazz, ranging from beautiful heartwarming melodies to sophisticated Jazz improvisation to quite brutal Free Jazz workouts they are a talented bunch that are not afraid to step out of their comfort zone, always pushing the boundaries but never ignoring simplicity for the sake of it. This is very evident on the opener to “Seven Days Of Falling” “Ballard For The Unborn” starts with just Esbjorns beautiful piano tones with only Dan’s slowly bowed double bass and Magnus’ tinkling cymbal work as accompaniment, a sparse track but filled with heartbreaking joy, a wonderful opener if there ever was one. To follow we have the trio falling naturally into their signature sound with the title track “Seven Days Of falling” all three contributing to the uplifting melodies with Esbjorn piano skills playing centre stage and showing off why he will be sadly missed in the music world.
Though the first two tracks are quite reflective in nature thats not what the album is all about as with the 3rd track “Mingle In The Mincing-Machine” we can really hear the modern fusing of sounds from other contemporary genres, a more uptempo track that has Rock and Techno stylings from the outset, this from a trio on acoustic instruments, you’ll not believe your ears and how do they do it? well Dan Burgland has a few tricks up his sleeve feeding his upright bass into some effects fuzzing and flanging the sound into unrecognisable waves of electronic sound and Magnus’ metallic drum sounds move us into electronica territory, with this being even more evident on the next track “Did They Ever Tell Costeau”
But let us not get away from this being at its heart a very Jazzy album, there are lots of traditional Jazz Improvisation among the modern fuzzed up and metallic sounds, brilliant playing by all three throw us some great energetic Jazz workouts that thrill as well as impress, inbetween there are more ballardy numbers like the two openers letting us fall into a relaxed trance as they conjure up images of crisp Scandinavian skylines, with each member adding their own flavour to the overall sound. These two sides are beautifully combined on “Elevation Of Love” which starts with Esbjorns piano sound distorted and bent out of shape but soon floats with his trademark playing, the track then ebbs and flows from beautifully reflective to strong and robust to frenetic with a cacophony of sound that is more in line with a Radiohead or Sigur Ros track than a Jazz one, a fantastic achievement for me and my favorite track on the album. So, as the bands name implies this is not a one man band in just Esbjorn showing off his piano and composing skills with drums and bass as accompaniment they all contribute so much its probably why they are known more as E.S.T than Esbjorn Svensson Trio.
“Seven Days Of Falling” and E.S.T are a great entry into the world of Modern Jazz with their contemporary stylings influenced by modern genres, but what makes them great is that under all of this there is great musicianship, arrangements and melodies in a very traditional Jazz jacket but this crossing of boundaries I think helps to ease listeners into a more Jazzy world without the jolt of listening to a traditional trio. Couple this with the great sound quality that The Act Company achieves with their recordings and you have a crisp, vibrant, clear performance and one that will reveal itself more and more the more you play the CD. E.S.T have a reputation for great energetic live performances which sadly is beyond our reach in 2013 with the passing of Esbjorn but be thankful that he, Dan and Magnus have left a fantastic discography for us and future generations to discover.
Discuss this review here