301 (ACT Music)
Released March 30, 2012
Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2012
In January 2007 e.s.t. were on tour in Asia and Australia performing shows in Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Jakarta, Perth and Sydney. It was their third tour of Japan and their second time on the fifth continent and the venues and audiences had become noticeably bigger. Only a few weeks before they had finished their triumphant tour of Germany performing their now legendary “Live in Hamburg” concert (awarded ‘Album of the Decade’ by the London TIMES). It was undoubtedly the prime time of the style defining jazz band of the Noughties.
Esbjörn Svensson, Magnus Öström and Dan Berglund decided to rent the famous Studio 301 in Sydney for their off-days in the middle of the Australian tour and jammed for two consecutive days to develop new songs and material. Altogether they recorded 9 hours of music. “Leucocyte” became the first release from this recording and has been praised by critics and fans alike as a ground-breaking work that leads into a new musical universe. Very soon after the recording Esbjörn Svensson had edited much of the material down to two albums. And so the plan at the time was to release either a double album or two consecutive albums from this recording. The untimely passing of Esbjörn Svensson then disrupted this undertaking and only one of the albums, “Leucocyte”, was released at the time.
Three years on, in October and November 2011, Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström revisited the material from that recording and together with their regular sound engineer Ake Linton made their own edit for an album which is now called “301” on the basis of the name of the studio where the album was recorded.
Throughout their existence one of the defining characteristics of e.s.t. was their seemingly effortless and interconnected interplay, which was on such a high level that it seemed to suggest that they were “three mutant bodies with six arms and one brain” (Jamie Cullum). This high level of interaction was achieved through years of playing together, hard work and preparation – after all e.s.t. were together since 1993. Such a connection becomes especially important when jamming without net in a studio marathon like e.s.t. did in Sydney.
Probably very few bands would be able to develop and progress improvisations in the way e.s.t. was able to, without constantly coming back to the starting point, or leaving acres of void space in the middle. Their improvisations became marches through undetected territory progressing from one place to the next without insecurity, without asking, without knowing the way, but being able to rely on the comrade at your side, just letting the music flow.
The recording sessions in Studio 301 were not only a jam, but involved e.s.t.´s sound engineer Ake Linton in the creative artistic process. Ake Linton had travelled with the band since early 2000 and was the man behind the mixing desk in over 500 shows. Together with him e.s.t. had designed their own recognizable trademark sound and Ake Linton made sure that wherever they went and performed this sound was recognizable. During the recording process at Studio 301 he would contribute by running effects, overlaying distortions and add-ins live through the desk and onto tape. This procedure is especially delicate as it cannot be reversed during mixing sessions. Therefore it is no surprise that both “Leucocyte” and now also “301” were finally mixed and mastered at Bohus Sound Recording in Gothenburg and involved Ake Linton as the mixing engineer.
Esbjörn Svensson´s untimely death on June 14th, 2008 put a much too early end to the creative output of what probably was the most exciting jazz band of the decade. The fan community has been longing for access to archival material and recordings ever since. With “301” they are now getting a full album of new original compositions and music by e.s.t. For Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström it has been a painful process to revisit the Sydney recording. Both had to move on after the sad events of 2008. Dan Berglund regrouped with some pre-e.s.t.-era musical friends and formed the indie-outfit Tonbruket, which released two albums so far (“Tonbruket” and “Dig it to the End”), while Magnus Öström released his solo-album “Thread of Life” in 2011 featuring a performance of Dan Berglund and Pat Metheny on a tribute song to Esbjörn Svensson.
1. Behind the Stars (Dan Berglund / Esbjörn Svensson / Magnus Öström) 3:44
2. Inner City, City Lights (Dan Berglund / Esbjörn Svensson / Magnus Öström) 11:48
3. The Left Lane (Dan Berglund / Esbjörn Svensson / Magnus Öström) 13:37
4. Houston, The 5th (Dan Berglund / Esbjörn Svensson / Magnus Öström) 3:34
5. Three Falling Free, Pt. 1 (Dan Berglund / Esbjörn Svensson / Magnus Öström) 5:49
6. Three Falling Free, Pt. 2 (Dan Berglund / Esbjörn Svensson / Magnus Öström) 14:30
7. The Childhood Dream (Dan Berglund / Esbjörn Svensson / Magnus Öström) 8:02
Esbjörn Svensson: grand piano, electronics, transistor radio
Dan Berglund: double bass, electronics
Magnus Öström: drums, electronics, voices
Recorded January 2007 at Studio 301, Sydney, Australia
Produced by e.s.t.
Recording & Mixing Engineer: Åke Linton
Recording Assistant: Michael Morgan
Mastering Engineer: Claes Persson
Australia in January 2007, the height
of summer, a time for relaxing on the beach and for taking it easy in the
post-Christmas comedown—but not for the Esbjörn Svensson Trio. Hiring Sydney’s
Studio 301 for a couple of days, the band spent its time jamming and
improvising, yielding what would seemingly be the groundbreaking trio’s final
studio album, Leucocyte (ACT, 2008), for Svensson’s untimely
death was less than 18 months away. In late 2011, bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus
Ostrom returned to the unreleased music
and, in collaboration with sound engineer Åke Linton, prepared 301.
301 refers to the recording studio, but it can also be read “3 as 1″ or “3 minus 1.” Semiologists might wish to linger on those options, but for e.s.t.’s many fans, the music remains the priority. Unsurprisingly, there is a distinct similarity in sound between 301 and Leucocyte: a mix of acoustic instrumentation and electronica in which first one, then the other, takes center stage.
Of the electronica-led tunes, the most successful is “Three Falling Free Part II.” Öström’s powerful drumming dominates initially, and a heavy dose of electronically created noises gives the tune a decidedly prog-rock sensibility—e.s.t. channeling the spirit of ELP. The overall feel is pretty lighthearted, but elsewhere there are times when the electronics tend to detract from, rather than enhance, the acoustic instruments. The wholly electronic “Houston The 5th” sounds oddly anachronistic and out of place.
When the bass, piano and drums are given control, the organic beauty of e.s.t.’s music shines through. “The Childhood Dream” combines Svensson’s delicately sorrowful piano with Berglund’s restrained bass playing and Öström’s hand drums, the result sounding like a valediction. “Behind The Stars” is a Svensson solo, apart from Berglund’s occasional sparse arco bass. It’s a graceful, contemplative ballad. On “Three Falling Free Part I,” Svensson’s moving, emotive piano has a real “after hours” sound thrown into relief by the freer, more fragmented bass and drums. By contrast, the lengthy “The Left Lane” is a more upbeat, jaunty number. Driven by Öström’s percussion groove, Svensson and Berglund gradually rack up the tension across 13 minutes, before the release comes with the bassist’s pizzicato solo. It’s a quartet of tunes that stand with the best of the e.s.t. canon.
The jazz and rock catalogs are littered with posthumously released recordings that do nothing to enhance the reputation of the musicians concerned. There need be no such concern about this album. 301 carries on where its predecessor left off. While it doesn’t feel quite so innovative—it does, after all, appear four years after Leucocyte—it’s still stylish and at times hauntingly beautiful. It’s a worthy, welcome reminder of the majesty of e.s.t.
Bruce Lindsay (All About Jazz)