Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.): Somewhere Else Before

In an art form based on heroic individualism, E.S.T. stands out for its attempts to forge a collective identity. Esbjörn Svensson's talent looms large here, and he could have cast himself in the starring role, but instead he collaborates with Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström in painting a stirring sonic landscape. The composition itself is deceptively simple, based on motives of two or three notes. But this modest melody gives us all the more reason to admire the tapestry of delicate sound colors that E.S.T. builds around it. The open spaces and understated pulse here are handled masterfully. This is a different type of piano trio, and perhaps a harbinger of fresh, new way of playing jazz.

June 15, 2008 · 0 comments


Wolfgang Haffner: Star

This trio is not well known outside of Europe, but certainly deserves a wider hearing. Everything clicks on the track. The interaction between the band members is exemplary. The swing is infectious. Everyone plays well, but especially drummer Haffner, who has a clean sound that is both light and aggressive at the same time -- he reminds me a bit of Brian Blade. The song is little more than a repeated groove, but the trio put so much heart and soul into it, it might as well be the Haffner Serenade, and not just Haffner's simple jam tune.

May 26, 2008 · 1 comment


[em]: Another Mr. Lizard

This German cooperative trio is definitely becoming one of the most interesting European piano trios. On its second record it displays an impressive ease with original compositions by its three members, and the present track by pianist Wollny is a good case in point. Tight interaction, as in the opening melodic unison between piano and drums over a bowed bass drone, twisted melody that never fails to swing, attention to the sound quality of each instrument that attracts your ear by playing in the chords, out of them and around them with a taste for surprise that never sounds conceited. These three young musicians are a delight to listen to.

March 31, 2008 · 0 comments


Michael Wollny: Initiation

This young German pianist has been known mostly for his Berlin-based trio strangely called [em], and for accompanying tenor veteran Heinz Sauer. On his first solo record, he shows another side of his rich personality: a romantic feeling that has its roots in the melodies of Schubert and in typically German mythologies, like the Walpurgis Night (“Hexentanz” means “dance of the witches”). With that type of inspiration and the stunning mastery of the piano that Wollny displays, who knows where this most promising musician will take German jazz? He is obviously one of the leading figures in its renewal.

January 15, 2008 · 0 comments


Joachim Kühn: Youmala

Whether you want to view it from the German + Moroccan + Spaniard, or Jew + Moslem + Christian angle, this trio and its music are about mixing genres and influences. During the last few decades, Europe has been more and more a place where jazz has opened up to ethnic music from the South and the East. And that’s exactly what Kühn, Bekkas and Lopez do: find a common ground where the North-African and Western traditions can blend without falling into the traps of commercial world music. These three musicians have deep roots and open ears. Their forays on this new path are so fruitful that they’re bound to be more than a mere fad.

January 10, 2008 · 0 comments


Heinz Sauer: Variations on Redford

These previously unreleased three minutes are the perfect conclusion to the compilation of 40 years of recordings that ACT published to celebrate Heinz Sauer’s 75th birthday. On the dark, haunting minor chords that Michael Wollny plays as an introduction, the deep, serene sound of the tenor sax soars, and takes the hymn-like song to a climax of intensity. This moment of pure beauty will undoubtedly convince the listener that it’s high time the talents of the underrated – if not unknown – sax veteran and of his brilliant young partner were rediscovered for the former, and promoted for the latter.

January 02, 2008 · 0 comments


Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.): Dating

Esbjörn Svensson's trio E.S.T. stands out as one of the most interesting European jazz ensembles of recent years -- but to call this a great European band is far too limiting. E.S.T. demands our attention as one of the finest piano trios to be found anywhere. I have long felt that many of the implications of the early ECM recordings, and in particular Keith Jarrett's masterful Facing You, have not been sufficiently understood and developed by later musicians. Jarrett himself went off in different directions, and no one else seemed interested or capable of mining this rich vein of harmonic textures and compositional devices. But E.S.T. builds new superstructures on this ground, adding much of their own inspiration and creativity in the process. Svensson, in particular, has a first-rate musical mind and shows here that he needs to be mentioned when the discussion turns to the best jazz pianists of the current day.

December 24, 2007 · 0 comments


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