E.S.T., Recorded Live in Studio 4A

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Just the Music

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Esbjorn Svensson Trio

The Esbjorn Svensson Trio (L-R): Dan Berglund, Esbjorn Svensson, Magnus Ostrom. Tobias Regell hide caption

itoggle caption Tobias Regell

Sweden's Esbjorn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.) is often cited as a prime example of the difference between European and American jazz. Its music pulls in elements of techno, classical, rock and pop.

Some critics say that American jazz hews too closely to tradition at the expense of innovation. Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft puts it this way: "I haven't heard one interesting American record in the past 20 years. It's like a museum — presenting stuff that's already been done."

Esbjorn Svensson, whose songwriting and distinctive piano playing drives E.S.T., disagrees with that assessment.

"I think there's a lot of fantastic jazz coming out of (the U.S.)," he tells guest host Brian Naylor. He does, however, agree that Europeans are more ecumenical when it comes to jazz. "It's your folk music," he says, alluding to the genre's American roots. So there's a natural tendency in the U.S., he says, to conform to tradition — a tendency not shared by European artists.

Consequently, E.S.T. can cite not only jazz musicians as influences, but also the likes of Radiohead and classical innovator Bela Bartok.

Svensson says he grew up listening to all kinds of music, becoming, among other things, "a real gospel freak." E.S.T. keeps one foot firmly entrenched in traditional jazz, but the trio also makes use of electronic effects and multitracking.

The group has been together since 1993. Along with Svensson, E.S.T. includes drummer Magnus Ostrum and bassist Dan Berglund, whom Down Beat magazine called "a powerhouse bassist with a terrific sound."

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