It is widely accepted today that European jazz has developed its own unique vocabulary alongside its Afro-American counterpart, and E.S.T is an exceptional example.
The Esbjörn Svensson Trio, or E.S.T. as it is known internationally, has taken this musical development several steps further. At the same time it is linked with the same Swedish tradition that has made Sweden famous for jazz. The result is a structurally unified album in which the personal sound of the group has become more intense and projects an even greater depth from which it is able to reach new musical heights. Welcome to E.S.T. country!
Swedish jazz has a long tradition. Lars Gullin and Jan Johansson were already international stars in the 1950s. Today a new generation of Swedish jazz musicians (i.e. Bobo Stenson, Nils Landgren) is knocking on fame’s door. The brightest shinning star is without question pianist Esbjörn Svensson along with his trio, E.S.T. It is not surprising - the collective unconscious should never be under-estimated - that the trio’s scintillating jazz-mix comprises a trade mark "Swedish Sound", even when the music encompasses diverse elements which include their own rich folk tradition, the European classic tradition and rock n roll.
In 1993 Esbjörn Svensson, Magnus Öström, and Dan Berglund set out the direction for E.S.T. In December of that year their first album, "When Everyone Has Gone", was released, winning praise from the critics. The trio’s continuing development occurred mainly through its intensive "club-hopping"; an important consequence was the 1995 release of "E.S.T. Live ´95" (ACT 9295-2). Soon the trio made a name for itself in its native country and this led to a recording contract with the more pop-oriented record label Superstudio Gul/Diesel Music. In the same year the now classic "Esbjörn Svensson Trio Plays Monk" was released and overnight they were not only blessed with positive press; 10,000 Swedish record buyers were rejoicing.
In 1996 Esbjörn Svensson travelled to Germany with his friend Nils Landgren to play with the Funk Unit at the Jazz Baltica festival; Esbjörn also left his unmistakable imprint on the Funk Unit. German Jazz Award-winning hit album "Paint it Blue" (ACT 9243-2) marked the beginning of his relationship with ACT label owner and producer Siggi Loch who invited Esbjörn also to make a first duo recording with Nils Landgren "Swedish Folk – Modern".
In late fall 1997 the spine-chillingly beautiful "Winter In Venice" by E.S.T. was released in Sweden. It is an album in which, aside from Gunnar Svensson’s ambiguous "Herkules Johnssons Melodie" Esbjörn’s own compositions are strung together like so many precious pearls. Without exception, every piece was conveyed with a seemingly unearthly elegance and naturalness. The album was rewarded with a Swedish Grammy, and Esbjörn Svensson himself was selected as the year’s best composer.
The 1999 issue of "From Gagarin’s Point Of View" was a milestone in E.S.T’s career. The group sounded more unified, more concentrated than ever before. In "The Chapel", "Cornette", and "Definition Of A Dog" they literally touch the heavens. Through its connection to the ACT label, "Magic Trio’s" long overdue breakthrough onto the international scene came with an appearance at the ACT World Jazz Night at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1999. A new star was born.
Fall 2000 was time for album number four with the puzzling title "Good Morning Susie Soho". After Germany, England now also discovered E.S.T., and voted the group "Best Trio 2000", and the album "CD of the Year". To describe and explain the quality and strong impression of "Good Morning Susie Soho", it should be noted that in the magazine Mojo, the CD was named among the "your 400 essential albums". Which means that, out of all the albums that have ever been issued, which include the recordings of Miles Davis and the Beatles’ classics, one should own a "Good Morning Susie Soho". Once again in 2001 events came thick and fast for E.S.T. Besides touring Europe under the "Rising Star" banner and playing all the major festivals, the USA’s Columbia Records took notice of the trio as well and released "Somewhere Else Before", a compilation from the two last albums.
We are now writing in March 2002. It is once again time for another perfectly conceived E.S.T. album. And as usual, we invite you to a "joyous dance" to the trio’s very special mixture of modern jazz, melancholy folk, serious music, along with the irrepressible influence of rock. With its new album, the incredibly beautiful "Strange Place For Snow", the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, with its familiar combination of Dan Berglund on bass and Magnus Öström on drums, once again shows that it is the trio with the most to offer in Sweden. But that’s not all! They prove that they are without a doubt one of the world’s leading jazz trios.
Already on the first piece, "The Message", the album’s tone is made clear. It originates out of the so-called "free play" that was recorded in May 2001.The soft, gospel-like quality of "the Message", in which Jan Johansson’s ubiquitous spirit can be felt, is not really typical for E.S.T. Which on the other hand makes it very typical for E.S.T. Before "Serenade For The Renegade" was named, it was simply called "Radiohead-Melody". One can understand why, even when Chopin and Roxy Music appear on the reference list. "All three of us love Radiohead" Esbjörn declared, his whole face shinning with pleasure. The title piece "Strange Place For Snow" in fact shouldn’t be on this album. Esbjörn related that "Before it got its final form, it sounded too much like pop". In retrospect one can’t say enough about how lucky it was that the trio finally decided to record "Strange Place For Snow" - it’s clearly a future classic. "Behind The Yashmak" is pure celebration-music. After a somewhat searching introduction, "Behind The Yashmak" finds its musical expression in a direction that previously could only be found in some of Pat Metheny’s most joyous sound adventures. The ending, with the "hockey celebration" blended in, is, to put it mildly, ecstatic. The meditative "Bound For The Beauty Of The South" is a virtual hymn of praise for Schloss Elmau castle. This "unusual" castle, which lies near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, has become something of a refuge for E.S.T. They find themselves continually returning, either to recuperate or to give a concert.