Magnus Öström & Dan Berglund – e.s.t. 30 (ENG review)

ACT music – Street date May 31th 2024
Magnus Öström & Dan Berglund - e.s.t. 30

In Europe in the 90s, a jazz group was adored by many fans, its name e.s.t. The adventure of this group began like this: In 1993, three Swedish musicians, Esbjörn Svensson, Dan Berglund, and Magnus Öström, formed the group e.s.t. Svensson and Öström had known each other since their early days in music, as children. None of them could have foreseen that e.s.t. would become the most influential group in European jazz of the 2000s. And when the group formed, they probably didn’t think of themselves as particularly “jazz” either; all they wanted was to play the music that united their passions: rock, pop, classical, folk, improvisation. Over the next 15 years, e.s.t. would perform thousands of concerts worldwide, release ten studio albums and several live recordings, win awards, and achieve gold records. We all know the end of the story.

One might have thought that with the passing of pianist Esbjörn Svensson, we would quickly forget this group, but that’s not counting on the determination of the German label ACT and the fact that two of the greatest European jazz artists who were part of this group continue their respective careers with the same talent as during the e.s.t. period, and end up on this CD together. The group would have turned 30 this year and is still alive, indeed…? To mark e.s.t.’s 30th anniversary, Magnus Öström and Dan Berglund joined forces with close musician friends, Joel Lyssarides, Magnus Lindgren, Verneri Pohjola, and Ulf Wakenius, to give two major concerts, one at the Philharmonie in Cologne and the other at the Filadelfia Church in Stockholm. They performed a selection of essential pieces from e.s.t.’s timeless repertoire, but in a way never heard before. The six musicians, each being an internationally renowned solo artist, treat the original melodic and rhythmic contours of these pieces with tenderness and affection. The iconic melodies and rhythms are all there, but we also hear how they are constantly reinterpreted as the musicians infuse them with unexpected warmth and light. These performers react to each other fascinatingly, and there’s a certain thrill in the air as the audience listens to the music in absolute silence, then bursts into wild applause at the end.

Joel Lyssarides, Magnus Lindgren, Verneri Pohjola, and Ulf Wakenius are also extraordinary musicians who offer us an exceptional album here, which, from my point of view, paints a picture of what the group could have been today by gathering some of the best European musicians around it on various projects. The music of e.s.t. was far ahead of its time, which makes hearing it interpreted in this way today seem natural.

Magnus Öström reflects on what it means to play this music today: “The emotions we feel have many layers, the depth of a lifetime. First and foremost, it feels like coming home. There’s sadness, gratitude, and happiness. And it feels unreal, even surreal, and yet so natural at the same time. And you can’t help but marvel at the greatness of this music. Esbjörn’s compositions and the arrangements we made together as a trio at the time seem timeless.” And he concludes: “Ultimately, what remains above all is the conviction that this music must be played and not left in a drawer.”

Magnus Öström is certainly one of the best European drummers; his albums have all proven his talents as an instrumentalist, as well as a leading composer and arranger. The same goes for the extraordinary pianist Ulf Wakenius, who has long accompanied You Sun Nah, contributing greatly to her success. And what a joy to rediscover the very talented trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, whom you know well if you listen to Bayou Blue Radio.

This album is irresistibly one of our “Essentials” for all the reasons mentioned above, a way for us to salute the memory of Esbjörn Svensson and to highlight the exemplary nature of all the musicians present on this album.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, May 15th 2024

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