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Esbjörn Svensson Trio: e.s.t. live in London (ACT)

Review of album by the late pianist and his trio

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Cover of Esbjörn Svensson Trio album e.s.t. live in London
Cover of Esbjörn Svensson Trio album e.s.t. live in London

The Esbjörn Svensson Trio was the Bad Plus of Europe, drawing a new generation of listeners to jazz. As practiced by e.s.t. and TBP—bands famous enough among the young to be known by their initials—jazz is not exclusively art for graying cognoscenti. It can be like rock or pop: more fun, less work.

The 17-year trajectory of e.s.t. ended with a crash in 2008, when Svensson died at 44 in a scuba-diving accident. This two-CD set, only the third posthumous e.s.t. release, was recorded live at London’s Barbican Centre in 2005, at the height of the band’s popularity. It presents a polished, adept ensemble with a focused sense of their own identity. They played two kinds of music: moody ballads based on Svensson’s simple, sweet, vaguely familiar melodies (“In the Tail of Her Eye,” “Viaticum”) and groove tunes (“Mingle in the Mincing-Machine”). The grooves usually got into the ballads, too.

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