A Posthumous Masterpiece Adds To E.S.T.'s Legacy | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

A Posthumous Masterpiece Adds To E.S.T.'s Legacy

Play associated audio

When the pianist Esbjorn Svensson died in a scuba accident in 2008, many fans of his group, the Swedish trio known as E.S.T., wondered if there might be some unreleased experiments lurking in a studio vault. There were. Just out is a disc called 301, which was recorded in 2008 during sessions for the group's final album.

Usually the posthumous album is a downer, a collection of scraps that don't add much to a legacy, but that's not the case with 301. The new set contains some of E.S.T.'s finest work.

E.S.T. was often described as a "jazz" ensemble because its music was primarily instrumental, and because its long treks into the unknown were driven by group improvisation. Really, though, these musicians were sound sculptors. They used strange drones, effects and distortion to create textures far from the typical piano-trio color scheme.

Playing together for more than a decade, they developed an extraordinary sense of interplay that drew on jazz but was defiantly not jazz. In "Three Falling Free Part II," the album's longest piece at 14 minutes, Svensson works with a fairly simple phrase. It gradually gathers momentum until, pretty soon, that kernel of a thought has been twisted around and transformed into a musical thunderbolt.

That's E.S.T. at its most absorbing — off on extended journeys that weave together rock rhythms, free improvisation, classical chord clusters and weird sound effects (some culled from a vintage transistor radio). I've followed the trio for years, and have to admit I was surprised by the intensity of the epics on the new release.

Fans of the band used to say, "You've got to see them live to understand what they do." Those fans were mostly right: In performance, these three attained a ferociousness that was rarely captured on their studio recordings — until now. Alas, it's now impossible to see E.S.T. live. But the kinetic new 301 is, in every sense, the next best thing.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

How To Sell Diverse Books: A Bookstore Owner's Advice

It's not news that the publishing world isn't very diverse. But over on the other side of the industry, how do owners of neighborhood bookstores try to sell books for or about people of color?
NPR

Can Quinoa Take Root On The 'Roof Of The World'?

Quinoa, once a homebody crop, crossed the Atlantic for the first time this century. Now the Food and Agriculture Organization has a hunch it can thrive in Central and Southwest Asia.
NPR

Senate Control May Swing On North Carolina's Unpopularity Contest

Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan wants voters to punish her GOP challenger Thom Tillis, the speaker of the state House, for unpopular laws. Tillis wants to aim anger toward the president at Hagan.
NPR

Islamic State Uses Online Strategies To Get Its Message Out

Experts say the videotaped killing of journalist James Foley is part of a broader propaganda strategy by Islamist militants. The group, the Islamic State, has become a master of the video medium.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.