It was through the influence of Landgren and Svensson’s former teacher Bengt-Arne Wallin, who recorded the landmark album “Old Folklore In Swedish Modern” back in 1962 (ACT 9254-2), that Svensson and Landgren were inspired to make a duo album centered around folk songs. In August 1997 both went into the studio and with only trombone and piano recorded Swedish Folk Modern (ACT 9257-2). Their improvised treatments of the classic songs of the folk culture not only impressed the public; it brought praise from the press.
The “Jazz album of the decade 2000 – 2010” (London Times). In a word: wow. Since their 1993 debut album, the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, or E.S.T., as it is usually called, have taken the jazz world by storm, winning numerous awards, playing sold-out world tours, topping the charts, and generally enjoying a popularity that's exceeded that of almost any other jazz group in years. The trio was also the first European jazz group to grace the cover of Down Beat magazine, which led to long discussions about the heritage of jazz and the validity of European jazz; and, naturally, it caused some listeners to perceive an artificial hype and discredit the band for simply not being as brilliant as everyone says they are.
Despite the fact that 2008’ Leucocyte, would be the Esbjörn Svensson Trio's final album due to the tragic scuba diving accident that killed Svensson, this was a band that had traversed such wide musical territory they deserved a retrospective treatment simply to sum up what had transpired between the release of 1993’s When Everyone Has Gone and that premature finale. While this 70-minute single disc doesn’t contain any unreleased material, or pre-1999 material (in favor of presenting the trio’s fully developed aesthetic), it is beautifully compiled.
It's a damn shame that Leucocyte is the final studio album by the Esbjörn Svensson Trio. Svensson died in a tragic diving accident in June of 2008, shortly after this set was finished. More than any other recording issued by this excellent band, Leucocyte captures the art of music making at the moment of conception; it was recorded as live-in-the-studio improvisation over two days in an Australian studio. It was completely finished, post-production and all, with a release date before Svensson's death. The words "post-production" mean plenty when it comes to E.S.T.'s music. The trio often recorded and added sonic effects to their structured, composed pieces. It underscored their hip sophistication and accessibility. It made them a hit with both jazz fans and younger audiences who listen to Radiohead, Sigur Rós, and even heavy metal more than jazz.
Sweden's preeminent jazz fusion band the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, named after the charismatic and inventive pianist, has been a sensation in Europe since the early '90s, capturing numerous Swedish Grammys (including one for Tuesday Wonderland long before its Stateside release), a French Grammy, and gold and platinum awards in their home country, Germany and France. But they deserve more than this – a medal, actually – for finding a unique blend of melodic jazz, classical, electronica and rock – that has earned them an audience of both older jazz lovers and trendy hip-hop kids. It speaks to the freshness of their vibe that their videos play regularly on MTV Scandinavia and they're the only European jazz band ever to grace the cover of Downbeat.
The Swedish trio e.s.t surpassed all expectations with the release of the album Viaticum (ACT 9015-2) in February 2005.Not only have the Swedes received the German Jazz Award in GOLD for their last three albums, but Viaticum attained a GOLD and a PLATINUM award just three months after release. An all-time record! At the same time the album made it into the Pop-Charts in Sweden (# 5), in Germany (# 45) and in France (# 60), and was chosen as "CD of the Month" by the magazines Stereo, Stereoplay, Piano News as well as Drums&Percussion. Viaticum received euphoric reviews from around Europe, which can be summed up in one sentence: "This is contemporary jazz at it's best" (FonoForum). Viaticum is on its way to being the most successful Instrumental-Jazz-CD of 2005.
Available for quite some time as an import before the tiny Philadelphia-based indie 215 Records finally released it stateside, complete with a bonus live DVD, 2003's Seven Days of Falling is every bit the equal of E.S.T.'s earlier records. Misguided American media comparisons to the highly overrated the Bad Plus have done pianist Esbjörn Svensson, bassist Dan Berglund, and drummer Magnus Ostrom a grave disservice, as their music is far more wide-ranging and much less gimmicky.
Though jazz was born and bred in the United States, its influence long ago spread throughout the world, and its popularity overseas has continued to grow even as its significance on the American music scene has waned. This Swedish group, also known as the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, is among the jazz trios to land on North American shores, and their acoustic jazz sound seems certain to build a following in the States.