301 (ACT Music; 2012)
Esbjorn Svensson (piano)
Dan Berglund (bass)
Magnus Ostrom (drums)
E.S.T. are perennial favourites in the JazzWrap office. So when word came at the beginning of the year that new studio material was on the way, I was stoked with excitement.
The Swedish trio has been in the forefront of the European jazz scene for well over a decade. The tragic passing of founding member, Esbjorn Svensson, signaled the end of one of the best trios Europe has produced in a very long time. But the final music from the session that produced Leucocyte in 2009, also included material that shows how far the trio had come and where they were about to go. It's also a statement of how important they have become.
That session is now released under the title 301, after the studio for which it was recorded. Like it's predecessor, 301 is intensely dark and experimental. The opening track "Behind The Stars" is a solo piece driven by Svensson's steady tone that always had an element of Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett. A rich modular number that rises and descends with elegance. This is reminiscent of the group's earlier work--quiet like a chamber trio.
"Behind The Stars" transitions beautifully into seismic harmonic structures of "Inner City, City Lights." A slow moving ballad that catches Berglunds haunting basslines sounding like Mick Karn (maybe a stretch, but you know what I mean). A droning synth line hovers above Svensson's notes adding the cold electronic ambiance that E.S.T. had been researching on their previous efforts to this point. It's tantalizing and brooding but somehow still bursting with sublime vitality.
The epic, "Three Falling Free I-II" exhibits a Debussy calm and mastery. A romantic ballad that circles along the calculating notes of Berglund and Svensson. The elegance of Part I gives way to the fury of Ostrom's rhythmic patterns that roll independently and create the basis of freedom and experimentation for the second movement. Ostrom leds the trio through a more aggressive, almost rock orientated workout. The group are continually pushing themselves. "Three Falling Free" is one of those pieces that probably would have made the live audience go nuts. Amazing.
The gospel tinged "The Childhood Dream" closes out 301 on a supreme note. It's blossoming with charm, soul and a well balanced sense realism. A mirror to ones on reality.
As a document of one moment in time, 301 stands alone from its parent, Leucocyte. A darker album with mixtures of E.S.T.'s past, present and future. This may have been the last statement but it is by no means studio outtakes. It is also a declaration of how important this Esbjorn Svensson, Dan Berglund and Magnus Ostrom have been to the entire jazz scene over the last decade. Highly Recommended.