A Strange Place for Snow

COMPOSERS: Esbjörn Svensson Trio
LABELS: ACT
PERFORMER: Esbjorn Svensson (p, elec ky), Dan Berglund (db); Magnus Ostrom (d, perc)
CATALOGUE NO: 9011-2

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The Swedish trio EST is becoming a major force at the cutting edge of music and this current album is perhaps its greatest achievement to date. The spirit of Keith Jarrett’s more adventurous work such as the Belonging album often informs its output, and EST has always played original compositions.

In the trio’s early stages, Esbjorn Svensson had the lion’s share of the composing, but now all compositions and arrangements are attributed to the trio and this album of nine pieces seems totally inspired. Although an acoustic piano trio, EST also uses electronics to enrich the soundscape and the three virtuosi are equal voices in the group. They swing and rock with the best and the music is full of drama and surprises.

The opening, ‘The Message’, is an object lesson in the use of space and dynamics in a funky gospel mode, with Ostrom deploying brushes. ‘Behind the Yashmak’ is a ten-minute tone poem with bass occasionally doubling the piano melody and a huge electronics-enhanced climax.

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The title track is a fast bravura piece with a lovely lyrical ending. ‘When God created the coffeebreak’ is almost too exhilarating — taken at a fast tempo, piano and bass double a Bach-like complex bass-line throughout most of the performance. Like Jan Garbarek, EST is discovering fresh ways of making music ‘breathe’ and dynamic new structures — all enriching its European jazz heritage.