Global Hit – Esbjorn Svensson Trio

The World

Back in June we relayed news of the death of Swedish jazz musician Esbjorn Svensson. At the time, his band — the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, or e.s.t. as their fans knew them — had just put the finishing touches on what would be their last recording. Well, that recording came out today. The World’s Marco Werman has been listening in.

Esbjorn Svenssen’s group EST was a standard jazz trio — piano, bass and drums. But they produced music videos, and slipped from an acoustic piano trio aesthetic into the world of rock.

And — in what must be a puzzle for music industry marketing experts — audiences didn’t seem to notice or care about those conventional stylistic borders.

Esbjorn Svenssen and his trio recorded the music on the new CD “Leucocyte” in two days while on tour in Sydney, Australia in early 2007. That was almost a year and a half before Svenssen died at the age of 44, the victim of a scuba diving accident just outside Stockholm.

In an effort to recreate the spontaneity of a concert, EST spent only two days in the studio, jamming. “Leucocyte” perfectly captures the point that EST had evolved to as a group.

For years now, a debate has been on slow boil over the question: who carries the torch for the improvisational creativity in jazz these days: Americans or Europeans?

When you listen to the final recording of E.S.T. though, you begin to wonder whether that’s the wrong question.

Given that E.S.T. found fans, even created new fans around the world, it seems more appropriate to ask why music listeners often need labels to describe music before they hear it.

The website allaboutjazz explains that EST flummoxed music critics, they “unsettled the jazz police.”

And allaboutjazz adds that perhaps Esbjorn Svensson’s greatest achievement was to attract all-comers.

That includes people who need to know that what they’re about to hear might be jazz. The track titled simply “Jazz” seems to be about the preconceptions about what jazz is.

Is this composition jazz?

In his final recording, it’s as if Esbjorn Svenssen lets the listener decide.

After all, he wasn’t making jazz.

Esbjorn Svenssen always said he was just making music.

For The World, I’m Marco Werman.

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