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.
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 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.
Swedish Folk Modern first appeared in 1998 and was the first duo collaboration between Nils Landgren and Esbjörn Svensson. At the time the well-known German jazz journalist and pianist Michael Naura wrote: "Don’t ignore the CD Swedish Folk Modern, with first class Swedish improvisers Nils Landgren (trombone) and Esbjörn Svensson (piano). At last something beautiful after all the rubbish which is appearing on the market. This CD release became a worldwide success and was followed by the CD Layers Of Light (ACT 9281-2) in 2001.
Like so many American players, Sweden's Esbjorn Svensson has backed his share of pop artists but is essentially a jazz improviser at heart. Svensson's enthusiasm for improvisation came through loud and clear on his Dragon dates of the 1990s, one of which was the decent When Everybody Has Gone. Backed by fellow Swedes Dan Berglund (bass) and Magnus Ostrom (drums), Svensson favors the piano trio format and draws on post-bop influences like Chick Corea, Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett on the standard "Stella By Starlight" and originals ranging from the pensive "4 a.m." to the melancholy "Waltz for the Lonely Ones" and the Middle Eastern-influenced "Mohammed Goes to New York." Much of Svensson's work tends to be introspective and impressionistic, but things get surprisingly funky and almost Horace Silver-ish on "Tough Tough."
"Winter in Venice" is the band’s fourth CD. The 13 original compositions show them as sensitive masters of communication with the penchant for transforming simple, pretty melodies into complex networks of motifs. Sometimes balladic, sometimes joyously swinging, "Winter in Venice" lays out a lively tonal tapestry which, despite its suggestive title, seems to have little to do with the morbid feeling that exists in Venice during that dark time of year. It received the Swedish Grammy in 1998 as best jazz album of the year, and on top of it all, it helped Svensson to the title of Songwriter of the Year. And like "From Gagarinís Point of View", it is a collection of chamber-jazz rhapsodies that leaves the listener a lot of room for internal and external impressions, associations, and discoveries.
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. Well, do yourself a favor and do not listen to the detractors - listen to E.S.T.'s music instead, and this two-hour concert recorded on November 22, 2006 in Hamburg, Germany, is an excellent place to start…
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.
A concert for the ages: The release of "e.s.t. live in Gothenburg" brings listeners the previously unreleased recording of a concert to which Esbjörn Svensson (d.2008) referred in his lifetime as one of the best that his trio ever did. In this 2001 recording, e.s.t. played tracks from the albums "From Gagarin´s Point of View" and "Good Morning Susie Soho". There is even one track, “Bowling", which has never been released on CD before. "e.s.t. live in Gothenburg" documents the enduring magic of this band. We find originality, strength and playfulness coalescing together in an ideal way here.
The release of this album marks a poignant moment: the tenth anniversary of the tragic and premature death of Esbjorn Svensson on 14 June 2008. It was recorded at a completely sold-out Barbican Centre in 2005, during a hugely successful and highly popular UK tour. It is e.s.t. at the peak of their creativity touring after the release of their to-date best selling album “Viaticum”.