Fourth-quarter earnings

By JON GARELICK  |  December 17, 2008

e.s.t.. | LEUCOCYTE | Emarcy | The irresistible adjectives to describe the Esbjörn Svensson Trio are "cool" and "Nordic." How else to approach these Swedes (pianist Svensson, bassist Dan Berglund, and drummer Magnus Oström), with their stripped-down harmonic language, icy echo-chamber sound, taste for modern European classical, and resistance to the jazz basics of blues, standards, and swing? This is the band's valediction after the death of the 44-year-old Svensson in a scuba-diving accident in June. It shows their increasing fascination with electronics and experimentation, and just about every track shimmers with staticky noise. The rock beats, the slow-moving, perfectly executed harmonic changes and dynamic shifts, and the looped noise and echo all refer to ambient, dub, prog, and classical minimalism, from the spare melodies of Satie to the "process" repetitions of Feldman and Glass. At times, the slow, slow composition-long crescendi become downright assaultive, as in the relentless, repeated drum-tattoo climax of "Premonition I: Earth." But there's plenty of quiet ambiance as well, and the CD is sequenced like a self-contained suite — unbroken segues between some tunes, extended moments of silence between others, a traditional piano-trio piece at the halfway point called, of course, "Jazz." The final, four-part title piece achieves a pensive quietude that turns out to be sadder than was probably intended.

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