Saturday, October 3, 2009
E.S.T.: The European Standard
E.S.T. (group; '93 - '09)
Esbjorn Svensson Trio
Esbjorn Svensson (piano, electronics)
Dan Berglund (double bass, electronics)
Magnus Ostrom (drums, electronics)
Hailing from Sweden, E.S.T. have been the benchmark for European jazz groups since their appearance on the scene with their 1993 debut album When Everyone's Gone (Dragon Records). The group experienced the unexpected tragedy of their founding member Esbjorn Svensson earlier this year.
The remaining members of the band are still deciding what to do. In the meantime, their current label Act Music have released a compilation simply titled, Retrospective. I believe this is probably the perfect way for you to experience one of the best groups of the 21 century.
I have to admit I really didn't get into them until a few years later when I heard an American compilation, Somewhere Else Before (Columbia). While the compilation pulled together a number tracks from their previous six albums, it was slightly contrived. It focused more on alternative crossover capability than their more balanced improvisation and love of Thelonious Monk.
I decided to go back to discover those albums and was significantly blown away by the ingenuity of their pieces and how each album improves in quality. They would go on to record 11 studio albums and 3 live albums.
In Europe they are held as the torch bearers for jazz. A lofty goal, but they were truly worth it. This year E.S.T. released their 11th album, Leucocyte (ACT Music) which was a departure from recent release with a real clear direction of improvisation and high experimentation that they only hinted on in previous efforts (one song here, one song there). Leucocyte showed again that E.S.T. were again ready to move Europe forward. E.S.T. won numerous awards in Europe and the US (including the famous Downbeat critics poll).
Fans and critics still talk about E.S.T. and their influence on European and North American jazz(mainly on the trio format) and it is all justified. I think everyone who doesn't know about them--should. Find out about them now.