Personnel: Magnus strm (vocals, drums, electronics); Esbjrn Svensson (piano, grand piano, electronics); Dan Berglund (double bass, electronics).
Audio Mixer: ke Linton.
Recording information: Studio 301, Sydney, Australia (01/2007).
A couple of months after pianist Esbjrn Svensson passed away in 2008 after a freak diving accident, what was thought to be the band's final album, Leucocyte, was released. It was considered final because the pianist had been involved in its mixing and sequencing as he had each of their previous 11 albums. The release of 301 comes as a surprise. The material included here was chosen from nine hours of tape recorded during the Leucocyte sessions -- which was, interestingly, originally conceived as a double album. The band fully expected another album would be culled from the remaining material. E.S.T. cut Leucocyte while on tour, having no compositions; what emerged came came out of individual ideas or group jams, making this set feel very much like an extension of the previous recording. The band's surviving members, bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus strm, along with regular sound engineer ke Linton, all participated in 301's assemblage (named for the 301 Studios in Sydney). While it may have been sequenced or even mixed a bit differently had Svensson lived, everything here comes together as a compelling whole. Svensson was always keen to embrace more electronic sounds alongside his explorations of post-bop, and they are present here in tracks such as the formlessly experimental noise of "Houston, The 5th," the spacious electronic ambience that constantly yet hesitantly adorns the the backdrop (and even Svensson's piano occasionally) on the gorgeous, sinister "Inner City, City Lights," and in Berglund's blasting, fuzzed-out, phase-shifting basslines on the lengthy "Three Falling Free Part II." But the trio's jazz chops are abundant throughout. Opener "Behind the Stars" is a lovely, lilting, solo piano ballad. Another highlight is the stretched, swinging, balancing act of harmonic engagement in the nearly 14 minute "The Left Lane," while there's yet another shimmering blues in closer "The Childhood Dream." Ultimately, 301 proves that E.S.T. ended the way they came in, as a committed jazz group constantly seeking new ways of expanding the piano trio format as well the parameters of the music itself. This is not only a fine addition to their catalog, it is one of the finest entries in it. ~Thom Jurek
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