Saturday, August 6, 2016

STE*: E.S.T.

I seem to have hundreds of Steves and Stephens on my i-pod, so who said anything about not jumbling it up a bit, which is an apt metaphor, because that is exactly what E.S.T., or the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, did. Nominally a post-modern piano jazz trio, signed to the notoriously serious ECM label, one could be forgiven for suspecting their music to be far too sombre and far too difficult for you, and, at times, you would be right. But at others it can be amongst the most life-affirming use of this most traditional of formats, especially when a scintilla of electronica is added to the blend.

I would be first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about either the band or Esbjorn himself, much above he is no longer with us, having been drowned in a scuba diving accident 8 years ago. So rather than making this a retread of his life and works: you can get that here, I thought I'd just tweak your ears with a snippet or two of his work.
So is it jazz or is it not? Clearly, I guess, yes, but the question merely epitomises the problem with pigeonholing. By applying the label as many potential listeners will be repelled as will be attracted, perhaps many more, jazz often still having a stuffy reputation. So if you recontextualise it as within the classical/electronica interface it still fits. Indeed, with the expansion of this well nigh impossible to truly describe music genre, your Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahms and their ilk, I am struck how prescient of their current output were this trio a decade or more ago. (Here is an excellent article from the Royal Opera House, of all places, which ties to explain this paradigm.) Anyway I'm listening to them as I write and the drumming alone smacks way more of the dance floor than it is supposed to or that you expect. Uncertain if I'm selling this, so have some more music.

Did I say classical? But this is heavy metal, or could be, already defeating my risible attempts to classify. Which is my point. But never is the eclecticism a distraction, nor the purpose. This is no tailcoat riding exercise in hipster posing, as the more orthodox piece below shows.

The 3 songs showcased are, in order, 'Dolores in a Shoestand', 'Leucocyte' and 'Elevation of Love', perhaps demonstrating that his titles are arguably the only impenetrable within his oevre. I hope this briefest of introductions may entice some further exploring. (Hell, if you come to this site, your ears are probably already open, but, if not?) You could do a lot worse than a lazy start with 'Retrospective: the Very Best of E.S.T.'

Buy it here!

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