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June 11, 2009

’A Devastating Blow’

This Sunday, June 14, marks the first anniversary of the death of Esbjörn Svensson. Sam Christie's tribute at the Guardian's Music Blog pretty much sums it up:

[EST's] music was sensuous, soulful and funky music, executed with precision and passion but tempered by the self-awareness of competent jazz players honestly stretching the potential of the music. I underline that this music was born out of self-awareness, not self-consciousness; this wasn't an exercise in vanity. This confident group made music that they wanted to listen to and invited us to join them in understanding it. We came in droves . . .

We have truly lost a genius and it breaks my heart.

Mine, too. I own (I think) all of the trio's albums and I've recently gotten into some of Svensson's other projects, such as the very different Swedish Folk Modern. What I appreciated most (apart from the music itself) about Svensson and EST was that they cut through the paralyzing "Jazz/not Jazz" nonsense that has hurt Jazz in the land of its birth. As John Kelman at All About Jazz put it:

Contrary to Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch, jazz is no longer an American or, even more specifically, Afro-American art form. Jazz has, in fact, always been about incorporating music from various traditions, folk and otherwise, into something of a cultural melting pot.

And few people could stir that pot like Esbjörn Svensson.

I can't bring myself to embed only one sample, so here's two. First is my favorite EST song, "A Picture of Doris Traveling With Boris," from their album Viaticum Platinum.

The second is "Seven Days of Falling" from the album of the same name.

I still can't believe he's gone.

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