Album: Esbjorn Svensson Trio - Somewhere Else Before
Label: Sony Music - B00005NBZ8
Released: August 7, 2001
Genre: Jazz, Sort Of
Reviewer: Scott Faller
Date Reviewed: October, 2002
This is one of my favorite things about this little hobby of ours, finding new groups that just plain kick ass, then being able to blurt it out to the world. Well, I found another one, Esbjorn Svensson Trio from Sweden.
Shortly before Christmas last year I was doing my usual tour of Borders Books an Music (the Overpriced CD Store). If memory serves me correctly, I was drinking some blend of South African coffee. It had a nice stout flavor and ranked right up there in the strong coffee department. As I tried to calm myself down from the immediate caffeine rush of the coffee, I started cruising the Jazz isles, punching buttons and groovin' to the tunes coming out of the headphones when I saw the next album up. Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Somewhere Else Before.
Looking at the cover photo I could tell that this CD was going to be either something great, or I'd immediately cue up the next featured CD in the rack. As you can see, the photo is one of those "artsie" black and white shots. The trio is in the foreground with a forbidding, desolate background, as if to say these guys are a standout amongst a forest of faceless, nameless musical souls. Pretty cool photo actually. Little did I know how close this photo comes to their musical truths.
When I pushed the play button, I was immediately taken by a solitary bass note. Four beats later ......another. Then a very light touch to a piano and the gentle sweep of a brush against the drum head begin to blend in. I thought to myself, "This is cool. I need to hear more", so I let the song play. I closed my eyes and went into this trance like state and became swept away by the music. After finishing this song I thought to myself, "If the rest of this CD is half as good as the this first one, these guys could be the next coming."
Then the next track started. Wow, what a difference a track can make!!! This one starts out with Esbjorn reaching over the top of the piano top pluck the strings. Very cool. He alternates back and forth between plucking and playing. Then the guys break into this deeply intense and brooding song.
Then I flip to the third track, it's haunting, dark and highly melodical. At this point I've come to the conclusion that I have to buy this CD. As I flipped through the rest of the songs on the CD, I stood there listening to something that I haven't experienced before in Jazz, if that's what we can call this.
You know, as I think about it, I can't really categorize this as Jazz ..completely. It's very melodic, but it's nowhere near Smooth Jazz. It's not Avant-garde, but the guys can go off on a tangent sometimes. It's not pure Progressive, but they live on the musical edge more often than not. The coolest part is, EST blends the best aspects of tons of different styles like Jazz, Rock, Grunge, Heavy Metal and Techno (sort of) into this single, cohesive musical statement that is all their own. Nobody else is even coming close to what these guys are doing (at least from what I've heard).
Esbjorn has no fear to blend in studio effects into his music either. It works extremely well to enhance his musical statements. Each song is as unique as the one before it was. Somehow, they all have this very distinctive feel to them. You know how when (say) Pat Metheny, Carlos Santana or Eddie Van Halen is playing you immediately know who it is? The same is true of EST. They have a sound all their own that is immediately recognizable.
One of the Jazz critics described this as "not what Jazz was, but a vision of what Jazz can be" and he also called it "the future of Jazz". The guy was right on the mark. This is extremely cool music that actually defies it's Jazz branding.
Somewhere Else Before is a Best Of CD that Columbia released just for the US market. This is a compilation of three of the groups previous CD's, Winter in Venice, From Gagarin's Point of View, and Good Morning Suzie Soho. These, plus five more are available in the European market. Unfortunately for us Yanks, we have to wait until the group becomes popular enough over here to justify releasing all of them here in the States. That or if you really wanted them, you could log onto Amazon.uk or .de and have them shipped.
Of late, I've been giving music as gifts to my friends and family. This is my way of (hopefully) expanding some ones musical horizons. Especially those people that cross the boundaries of genres. Last Christmas I bought several copies of this CD and gave them out as presents. The feedback from everybody that got one was totally positive. Not the "Oh thanks, it was great" chagrinned type of response. The reaction was more along the lines of "These guys kick ass, how can I get the rest of their CD's?"
Let me ask you a question. When you are in a store buying CD's, do you look at what the other shoppers are buying? Reason I ask, I can be pretty brazen at times. If I see somebody with a similar taste in music, a lot of times I'll strike up a conversation with that person. There not really strangers at that point, when you think about it. Both of us (the stranger and me) are music fans. Therefore, we have something in common. Quite often, we stand there and recommend our favorite music to each other. It's a great way to find out about new groups and music, plus meet people too. Anyway, if I see somebody roaming the Jazz section, I usually gravitate towards them. No I'm not stalking them, it's just that Jazz fans are few and far between here in town. More often than not, I'll recommend that they buy EST's Somewhere Else Before. I'm so confident that they will love this CD that I even give them one of my business cards and tell them that if they don't like it, I'll personally give them their money back. These guys are that good. Now, that being said, don't even think about sending me an email asking for your money back, cause it ain't gunna happen :-) There's waaaay too many of you guys out there.
IMO, people that are stuck in a particular music genre are forcing themselves to a life of boredom (musically speaking). There is so much great music out there, if people will just drop their personal stereotypes and open their minds and their ears. They would find pleasures and musical richest beyond their wildest imaginations.
After listening to Somewhere Else Before for a few weeks, I was so taken with these guys that contacted Burkhard Hopper. He's the groups manager. I asked him if he could send me the groups catalog of music. What do you know, a week or so later, I get a pile of CD's in the mail. Immediately I rip into the package to see what's there. Sure enough, Burkhard sent me all four of the groups (then) current offerings. Now I can get a little better background on where the group is coming from musically speaking.
As I cruised through the CD's, each one was as great as the next. Although, I'd have to say my personal favorites are Winter in Venice and From Gagarin's Point Of View. The guys have a new CD out both in Europe and here in the States. It's called A Strange Place For Snow. This CD falls right in line with EST's other offerings. Extremely progressive yet very melodic. Again, the only way to categorize this is really cool music.
Now for the recommendation. If you have an open mind to music and aren't bound by the genre stereotypes, Somewhere Else Before needs to be on your short list of CD's to buy. If you like this as much as I think you will, then go for A Strange Place for Snow. Trust me, buy them in this order. I am not saying that A Strange Place For Snow is bad, because it isn't. But if you are a Jazz neophyte, Somewhere Else Before will act as a great primer to EST's latest release. If you are in Europe, go for Winter in Venice and From Gagarin's Point of View. Both are great lead ins to the rest of their catalog. Don't think of this as Jazz, think of it as a new genre in music, which is what it really is. It blends key elements of numerous styles of music into what the groups vision of music should be.
EST's music is as original and diverse as anyone could hope for. Groups like Esbjorn Svensson Trio need to keep hanging out there on the musical edge. If they don't, could you imagine how boring music would be? Unlike so many groups that try something progressive or different, EST pulls it off without making the music suffer. One thing is for sure, these guys are getting loads of spin time around the old Faller household.
I'd like to personally thank Burhard Hopper of B.H. Hopper Management for making a large part of this review possible. The groups catalog has, and will continue to give myself and my guests many hours of musical pleasure.
© Copyright 2002 Scott Faller - http://www.tnt-audio.com