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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Act ACT 9018-2




1. Decade
2. Preminition - I. Earth
II. Contorted
4. Jazz
5. Still
6. Ajar
7. Leucocyte - I. Ab Initio
II. Ad Interim
III. Ad Mortem
IV. Ad Infinitum
Esbjörn Svensson - Piano
Dan Berglund - Bass
Magnus Oström - Drums

The death of Swedish pianist Esbjörn Svensson from a diving accident at the age of 44 came as a shock to the jazz world. His trio might be said to have made minimalism popular with jazz fans and the group had become famous worldwide (so much so, that many people knew them simply by their initials: e.s.t. or EST). The trio actually made this album several months before Svensson died. It was recorded at Studios 301 in Sydney during the trio's Australian tour and is the result of two days of informal jamming. The trio had been together for 15 years and developed a virtually telepathic understanding. Their playing seemed to have classical and pop dimensions, as well as jazz.

This last album may come as a surprise, even a shock, to those who think of e.s.t. mainly as a subtle, often minimalistic piano trio. The first track is, indeed, a quietly thoughtful piano solo, but the second track includes an unsettlingly high-pitched noise which comes in and out of the music several times. The sleeve gives no indication of what causes this (it may be made by drummer Magnus Oström or bassist Dan Berglund) but it and other weird noises certainly distract from Svensson's playing over repetitive double-bass patterns. As Premonition - Earth continues for seventeen minutes, it grows louder and then more disjointed, with the drums taking an increasingly prominent role until the whole thing dissolves into a battle between drums and ambient noise. The following Contorted is aptly named, since the strange sounds again intrude on the gentle piano and bass.

Jazz is a swinging four-four improvisation, disfigured at the start by further bizarre sounds, which thankfully disappear to let the trio get on what it does best. Still has similar noises, which sound like a stomach digesting a heavy meal, with Svensson's piano in the background maintaining some glimpses of sanity. Ajar is a short but delectable piano solo, unhindered by extraneous noise.

The title-track, Leucocyte (which means a white blood-cell, by the way) is a four-part piece, whose first movement sounds like a heavy-metal outing. The second part, Ad Interim, is a minute's silence (at least, on my copy of the CD). Ad Mortem has a welter of discordant, fuzzy noises, with agonised shouts in the background (could this be a portent of Svensson's death?). The closing Ad Infinitum resembles the tolling of church bells - another ominous sound, with a wordless choir holding a single note.

As the trio's final album, this will doubtless be snapped up by fans, but I can't say it is as appealing as some of their other recordings. The Esbjörn Svensson Trio has given us much cherishable music, distinguished by its inventive togetherness and laudable clarity, but I'm afraid this is a flawed epilogue to the trio's career.

Tony Augarde





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