For proof that this Swedish piano trio is different from the norm, start with its name. Most such groups are named for the “soloist,” putting the rhythm section on the back burner. But the acoustic trio of pianist Esbjorn Svensson, bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Ostrom shortened the standard Esbjorn Svensson Trio moniker to E.S.T., a move indicative of its democratic sound. On its new release, Tuesday Wonderland, the trio exemplifies sharing the wealth.
The most creative jazz is always made by musicians who refuse to be enslaved by the traditions attached to the American art form. Being Swedish, E.S.T. has the extra advantage of not having to subscribe to such American throwback ideologies. One minute into Svensson’s pensive intro to the opening “Fading Maid Preludium,” Berglund and Ostrom create a musical hit-and-run through metallic bowing and a blast of crash cymbals, respectively. The message is clear—expect the unexpected.
Other unexpected gems include the dancing, 7/8-timed title track, and the ballad “The Goldhearted Miner,” featuring a Middle Eastern-sounding Svensson hook. Every track brings with it something unpredictable—“Brewery of Beggars” its orchestrated cacophony; the creatively titled “Beggar’s Blanket” its classical simplicity, “Dolores in a Shoestand” its update of Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy.”
Even when Svensson nears jazz tradition, like on the poignant ballad “Where We Used to Live,” he does so with a Bill Evans-like elegance. Berglund’s harmonic unorthodoxy and Ostrom’s understated rhythmic pulse also hint at Evans’ classic trio partners, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. The only criticism that the late pianist ever received was for having roots that were too European…by American traditionalists, of course.