Being in the moment while it happens – Esbjörn Svensson

Active between 1993 and 2008, Esbjörn Svensson Trio aka e.s.t. was a trailblazing Swedish jazz trio comprised of Dan Berglund on double bass, Esbjörn Svensson on piano and Magnus Öström on drums. Rejuvenating the image of the classic piano-dominated jazz trio and putting all three members on equal footing, e.s.t. quickly introduced to a new audience a daring and spirited sound while injecting a wide ranging blend of contemporary influences into the jazz lexicon – from classical music to contemporary avant-garde, from pop rock to electronic, drum & bass and hip hop.

With the release of From Gagarin’s Point of View in 1999, the band’s sound started to be heard outside Scandinavia and spread through all the major European festivals. By the mid-2000s, e.s.t. was touring all the large concert halls worldwide – including the “hard to break” American market.

The band’s stellar trajectory was stopped short on 14th June 2008 when Esbjörn Svensson tragically passed away in a scuba diving accident.

Over the course of their career, e.s.t. recorded 11 studio albums, with the last two Leucocyte and 301 released posthumously. But it was of course in a live context that the music of the trio took on a new dimension. During the lifetime of the trio, four live concerts were released – E.S.T. Live ’95 in 2001, Live in Stockholm in 2003 released as a DVD, Live in Berlin in 2005 as part of the Viaticum Platinum edition and e.s.t. live in hamburg in 2007.

Testament to the enduring influence of the trio, their Munich-based record label ACT Music has recently unveiled two previously unreleased concerts, namely e.s.t. live in london (2018) and e.s.t. live in gothenburg (2019).

Captured at Laeiszhalle in Hamburg on 22 November 2006 at the final concert of the Tuesday Wonderland tour, e.s.t. live in hamburg (2007) was widely considered at the time as the signature live album for the band. It was subsequently voted Jazz album of the decade (2000 – 2010) by The London Times and was re-released in 2013 as a 4 LP box set.

e.s.t. live in london was released in 2018 to mark the 10th anniversary of Esbjörn Svensson’s passing. The concert was originally captured in 2005 in a sold out Barbican Centre. The song list features tracks from three different albums, namely Strange Place for Snow (2002), Seven Days of Falling (2003) and Viaticum (2005).

Recorded on 10th October 2001 and released in October 2019 last, e.s.t. live in gothenburg features a repertoire selected from Good Morning Susie Soho (2000) and From Gagarin’s Point of View (1999). One track “Bowling” is previously unreleased.

Live at 35. Internationale Jazzwoche Burghausen, Germany, May 2, 2004
Seven Days Of Falling / Elevation Of Love / Definition of a Dog / Why She Couldn’t Come / Mingle In The Mincing-Machine / When God Created The Coffee break / Behind The Yashmak

For such an ingenious trio, the live stage becomes of course a magic cauldron where their entire studio repertoire gets deconstructed, transformed, re-purposed and extended. On the Hamburg stage, “Definition of a Dog” expands from 6 minutes in its studio version to over 18 minutes live. “Dolores in a Shoestand” from 8 minutes to 17 etc.

The live stage also quickly becomes an experimental sound lab. On tracks like “The Unstable Table & the Infamous Fable” on the London stage or “Dodge the Dodo” in Gothenburg, Dan Berglund experiments extensively with saturation, wah wah pedal and effects, surprisingly shifting the mood towards heavy metal.

On many occasions, Esbjörn Svensson will often drift from an experimental prepared piano sound to free-flowing improvisation à la Keith Jarrett or from a pulsating hook-based chords rhythm to a slower traditional jazz ballad within the same song.

e.s.t. concerts are legendary and the three live performances released in 2007, 2018 and 2019 respectively constitute the ideal entry point into the band’s soundscape for new listeners and seasoned fans alike.

Post 2008, both Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström went on to form their own bands (Tonbruket and the Magnus Öström Band respectively) and collaborated on countless projects. Since January 2019, the bass player and the drummer have joined Norwegian jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft on his new Rymden project and recorded Reflections & Odysseys (Feb. 2019) – a welcome and exciting continuation of the e.s.t. project.