Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Esbjörn Svensson 1964-2008

I am not making this up. A few days ago I discovered Esbjörn Svensson in the Penguin Guide to Jazz recordings, and downloaded The Esbjörn Svensson Trio Plays Monk at eMusic. I was very impressed by the album and I thought: here is someone working right now who is bringing the heart and soul of hard bop into contemporary music in a way that is not the least bit stale or hide-bound.

As I listened to Svensson's exquisite piano for the first time, I hit a link to All About Jazz. Just then the fluorescent lights in the basement room where I blog went off. In the dark room, now illuminated only the screen, I read that Svensson died in 2008 in a diving accident. This, says I, is too fucking much. I mean, love often turns into tragedy, but surely one can expect a few days between the one and the other. Even Romeo got that.

I have to admire Svensson for living a life of adventure. But damn it, why did he have to go and die while doing it. I could have been listening to his music for another twenty years at least. E.S.T Plays Monk is a marvelous tribute album. Svensson cuts a lot of the hard edges off Monk's lines, and lets a lot of the melody melt a bit in contemplation; but this is authentic Monk nonetheless. The recording is bright and responsive. Strings are added to 'Round Midnight', and his interpretation is of such subtle attention that it is making me rethink the mood of the composition. I love everything about this album, including its Picasso cover. I am right now digesting another of his albums, From Gagarin's Point of View. Rainy day jazz, with a little acid mixed in.

The Esbjörn Svensson Trio includes Dan Berglund on Double Bass, and Magnus Ostrum on drums.

We shouldn't have to be mourning someone younger than me. Listen to this guy.


  1. Great album! Especially the songs Rhytmn-a-ning, Evidence and, of course, Bemsha Swing. =D

    Thanks for the tip!


  2. You're welcome, André. I am agreement on all counts. I note that with Rhythm-a-ning, the clown horn is very noticeably absent. But the run is worth the effort.

  3. i remember the day i heard Esbjorn had died!
    Just some months before i was living in finland and had the chance to go and see him live in a jazz festival. At the time i was quite low on cash so i though "there will be plenty of time to see him in the future when i have more money to spend!"...
    that is a mistake i will try never again to make!!!

    Well, anyway, i really love some of his albums. "Strange Place For Snow" has been playing over and over again on my ipod and laptop, countless times, i have sat on the piano hours and hours trying to play their music and, sometimes, out of nowhere, one of his songs comes into my mind and then stays with me the whole day...

    Some people leave us too early!

  4. thanks for the wonderful comment. I had a similar experience. When I was a student at the University of Arizona, Bill Evans came to play. I was a big Evans fan, but life was complicated. I missed my chance to see this master. Some mistakes can't be corrected.