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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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E.S.T.

Retrospective.
The Very Best of E.S.T.

ACT 9021-2

[74:49]

 

 

  1. From Gagarin's Point of View
  2. Dodge the Dodo
  3. Good Morning Susie Soho
  4. Spam-Boo-Limbo
  5. Behind The Yashmak
  6. Viaticum
  7. Seven Days Of Falling
  8. Strange Place For Snow
  9. Believe, Beleft, Below
  10. A Picture Of Doris Traveling With Boris
  11. Goldwrap
  12. Delores In A Shoestand
  13. Leucocyte.

Esbjörn Svensson (piano, keyboards)
Dan Berglund (double-bass)
Magnus Öström (drums, percussion)
rec.1998-2008

 

Esbjörn Svensson’s death ended one of the world’s powerhouse trios, an ensemble of equals that pursued a wide range of musical staging posts, bolstered by imaginative exploration unconfined either by the medium or by expectation. It was truly a great loss, not least because the trio was working fluidly in further directions. Cut off in its prime it nevertheless leaves behind a portfolio of great moments and great discs. This Retrospective covers a decade’s worth of recordings, and serves as a memorial to one of the most energising bands around.

From Gagarin's Point of View is an apt starting point; a reflective, hypnotic free reverie: lyrical but subtle. Changes of mood and texture (overdubbing primarily) always kept E.S.T’s timbral textures excitingly varied. But their command of the funkier reaches of the music certainly did them no harm, as Dodge the Dodo shows. This is classic up-tempo E.S.T. It’s hard hitting but feelingly integrated, suffused with rock. It’s not as visceral or as overwhelming as another powerhouse trio, The Bad Plus, but its stake in expanding the vocabulary of the trio ensemble is just as important.

It’s pretty undeniable that Keith Jarrett was an important influence, and Good Morning Susie Soho attests to it strongly, to the Jarrett of the early 1970s trios. A long track – by far the longest on this album – such as Behind The Yashmak shows another facet of the trio, that of a slow, cooking build–up of tension and a control of span, of time. This one develops an inexorable drive after the slow and rapt start, and the impeccable, incremental control of tempo is a rare gift demonstrating the absolute interplay between the threesome. There are gospel hints too, possibly via Jarrett who knew how to infuse them into his own music – try Believe, Beleft, Below, a song that also feints toward C&W cadences too. Sometimes of course the sheer fluency and drive generated by the trio could be less than fulfilling. A Picture Of Doris Traveling With Boris may, like so many of their titles, exude cute wordplay, but it doesn’t display commensurate thematic memorability. Sometimes texture won out over ideas, as here. And, yes, that bludgeoning aspect to their music-making could also subvert melodic or harmonic ideas, as is the case – it seems to me – in Goldwrap. But these relative failures are more than outweighed by the intensified lyricism that the trio drew on. Delores In A Shoestand has an easy lyricism hard to resist.

Above all E.S.T chanced their arm. Contrapuntalism was a facet of their music as much as their Jarrett and Pat Metheny influences. If the lyricism had a pervasive Nordic quality it was generous and never hooded. Their absorption of funk grooves and rock added latitude to their rhythmic and textual armouries. Where might they have gone? Let’s rather enjoy where they did go.

Jonathan Woolf



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