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.
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.
E.S.T. LIVE ’95, originally released as MR. & MRS. HANDKERCHIEF, is the second official release for the Swedish jazz trio centered on the piano of its namesake, Esbjorn Svensson. While redolent of early Bill Evans at times, the combo delivers a purely modern sound that balances on a ledge between avant-garde playfulness and smooth poppishness. If the 88 keys are inevitably front and center, Dan Berglund’s bass snakes in craftily, most notably on the sly “Breadbasket,” while Magnus Ostrom’s backbeat is steady as a pendulum.
"Winter in Venice" is the band’s fourth CD, following "When Everyone Has Gone" (Dragon, 1993), "Mr. And Mrs. Handkerchief" (Prophone, 1995), and "EST Plays Monk" (BMG, 1997). "Winter in Venice" is at the same time the group’s first CD, in that it is the first independent profile that exhibits the three musicians in their present form. The 13 original compositions show them as sensitive masters of communication with the penchant for transforming simple, pretty melodies into complex networks of motifs.
Esbjörn Svensson reaches into the piano, and plucks the strings, searching for the sound of a guitar. He cautiously experiments with percussive accents, and dives into the depths of the orchestral-inspired forms. Attentive to the necessary considerations of musical balance, he integrates electronic elements into his musical vision, creating an optimal mixture of textures. He supplements his ideas with new harmonic ideas, surprising melodic variations, and catchy motifs.
Thelonius Monk was one of the truly great piano geniuses on the international jazz scene.Esbjörn Svensson is one of the truly great piano talents on the Scandinavian jazz scene.In some way you knew that they had to meet sooner or later. At last spiritually. And musically. "Plays Monk" is the telling title of the CD from 1996 by Esbjörn Svensson Trio (EST), now released on ACT. Ten of the most beloved songs by Monk, from nocturnal, lovingly caressing "`Round Midnight" to the gay and sprightly "Rhythm-A-Ning", gets here a becomingly shining new colour.
Clearly it's difficult to listen to any jazz recording without making comparisons with other great artists who have gone before them. In the last couple of decades, the position occupied by Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio has almost demanded that such comparisons should be made with them, and those who are fans of Jarrett will not be disappointed here. But this 1993 (and also pre-ACT) recording in the wide-ranging catalogue of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio not only establishes them as artists who march to the beat of their own orignal drum, but offers the listener a signpost to how the trio would emerge over the next decade or so.