In the ten years since the Esbjörn Svensson Trio came to a tragic end, a handful of piano trios have shown a trace of promise in becoming successors to the eclectic pianist's group.
The extended vamps, Svensson's tumbling, blues-cum-classically-tinged improvisations, Berglund's electric bowingas bold and beautiful as 's feedbackpropelled by Öström's industry, provide thrilling antidotes to the trio's more carefully orchestrated, tunes-based repertoire.
There are more subtle atmospherics at play as well, like the electronic soundscaping that accompanies an Öström's drum feature and his use of skin on skins, or Svensson's manipulation of the piano innards that conjures zither-like textures.
However, each and every one of the seven tracks on offer here is a spur-of-the-moment improvised piece. First, is it the most daring or original record the band have produced? Both tracks share a slow pace, a brooding atmosphere, and a structure that constantly builds tension without ever releasing it.
The three of them entered the studio without any proper plans – with the intention to just play – so one gets little sense that this is Leucocyte Part II. On the electronic front, both tracks see Svensson’s piano subjected to a fair amount of reverb while being underpinned by a single droning sound that offers the piece a tonal centre as a mournful counterpart to Dan Berglund’s sturdy bass.
To his credit, Esbjörn Svensson managed to make jazz music that was as accessible as it was challenging, and he neither sold his soul to “smooth jazz” nor fossilised himself under the weight of jazz fusion. Third, does it give anybody listening to the band for the first time a “way in” to listening to them? No, what 301 really offers us is an enrichment and a refinement of the group’s existing sound so, in a rather nerdy way, we can compare it with the rest of the e.s.t. Take, for instance, what 301 tells us about the evolution of e.s.t.’s embrace of electronica – and, by extension, what the gizmos of the 21st century bring to the atmosphere of piano jazz.