Esbjörn Svensson – HOME.S. (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 36:27 minutes | 562 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © ACT Music
Esbjörn Svensson is certainly one of the most influential musicians in modern jazz history. Now “HOME.S.” is his first solo album, released 14 years after his tragic accidental death while diving.
The mere existence of Esbjörn Svensson solo recordings is considered a minor sensation. After all, the musician had concentrated virtually all of his creative energy on his groundbreaking work with his trio e.s.t.. The focus of all participants on “only” one musical project in a fixed constellation had been one of the special features of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio.
It was all the more surprising when nine solo piano pieces were discovered on a hard drive in the personal archive of his wife Eva. The Swedish pianist and composer had recorded them professionally on his own in his basement studio in the weeks before his sudden death in June 2008. Not even Åke Linton knew of the existence of these recordings, although the sound engineer had accompanied all e.s.t. albums and shows for years and, according to Svensson, was considered the fourth member of the band.
Whether the nine pieces, named after letters of the Greek alphabet, were improvised or composed remains as much a mystery as the plans Svensson had for them. But the fact is that the recordings now available are not only the first, but practically the only ones that show him in a setting other than that of the trio: intimate, concentrated and completely with himself.Since the tragic death of E.S.T. leader, pianist, and composer Esbjörn Svensson in 2008, we’ve seen the release of the band’s final studio albums in Leucocyte and 301, the E.S.T. Symphony assembled by trio members Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and more recently, a pair of archival live albums from London and Gothenburg. Amazingly, none of that prepares us for HOME.S., an intimate collection of nine solo piano songs Svensson composed spontaneously and recorded in his home studio just weeks before his death. Eva Svensson, his wife and business partner, heard him composing and recording. As was her custom, she backed up his files on a hard drive; it became part of her personal archive. The files sat unheard for more than ten years. After rediscovering them, she enlisted Åke Linton — E.S.T.’s sound engineer — and titled them after letters in the Greek alphabet to celebrate her husband’s interest in history and mythology. These nine pieces aren’t outtakes or novelties but completely unheard songs that offer us the only complete album of Svensson’s solo playing and composing. “Alpha” opens the album with whispered chords. The melody emerges crystalline, circular, and assonant, with just enough drama to captivate and play repeatedly. “Gamma” is a haunted ballad that spreads its architecture across pop, gospel, and folk. Its use of themes associated with Bill Evans and Bobo Stenson are not only clever in articulation, they also bridge three generations of jazz pianists. It is fair to assume that some of these tunes were composed for Svensson’s ears only. That said, others seem intended for more extensive treatments by the trio. In particular, the angular, harpsichord-like “Delta,” with deft lower-middle register flights and pulsing chord voicings would have been expanded by the rhythm section. Their sense of drama in presentation was almost always tempered by their imaginative timbral palette. “Theta” commences classically; Svensson’s approach initially suggests a Bach sonata, but he deconstructs the harmony and stretches time signatures to the breaking point using clever ostinatos and a massive chordal playground. It never abandons the classical motif but does inject it with jazz syncopation. In the gorgeous “Epsilon,” Svensson is motivated by classical harmony, but his use of pedals, sense of phrasing, and double-handed chord voicings are cinematic save for his (very) gentle humming amid the tune’s flow and directional shifts. Closer “Iota” is so tender and deliberate that it sounds like an improvisation on a nursery rhyme. That said, there are canny juxtapositions of progressions and sharp arpeggios that blur together in the pianist’s scalar vocabularies. Ultimately, HOME.S. offers an overflow of Svensson’s unclassifiable style. His ever-eclectic approach to composition and improvisation is always original. Though some of these selections are sketches that sought further development, Eva, Linton, and ACT have provided fans with a great gift: hearing Svensson’s wildly idiosyncratic, very private composing process at the moment of creation.
– Thom Jurek
1. Esbjörn Svensson – Alpha (04:01)
2. Esbjörn Svensson – Beta (03:35)
3. Esbjörn Svensson – Gamma (06:08)
4. Esbjörn Svensson – Delta (02:48)
5. Esbjörn Svensson – Epsilon (04:36)
6. Esbjörn Svensson – Zeta (03:19)
7. Esbjörn Svensson – Eta (07:06)
8. Esbjörn Svensson – Theta (02:29)
9. Esbjörn Svensson – Iota (02:20)