Pianist Esbjörn Svensson Dies in Diving Accident
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Pianist Esbjörn Svensson, leader of the Swedish jazz trio E.S.T. that appeared on the May 2006 cover of DownBeat, died Saturday, June 14 in a diving accident in Sweden. He was 44
When Svensson founded E.S.T. in 1993 with drummer Magnus Öström on drums and bassist Dan Berglund, little did he know that 15 years later the group would stand as such a major force in the European--and international--jazz scene. In fact, the group’s appearance on the cover of DownBeat marked the only time that a European band has appeared on the cover of the magazine.
Born April 16, 1964 in Västeras, Sweden, Svensson grew up in a musical family. His mother played classical piano, his father loved Ellington, and Svensson listened to the latest pop hits on the radio. In high school, Svensson played in his first bands, along with taking piano lessons for three years. He followed this with four years of musical studies at the University in Stockholm. As Dan Ouellette wrote in his cover story on E.S.T., Svensson developed a piano style that clearly showed the influences of Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk (including the album E.S.T. Plays Monk, while incorporating modern electronic and sampling elements to his music. Most importantly, he created his own voice on the piano, and led a band that had developed its own identity.
While E.S.T. did sign to Columbia Records in the United States and release two albums on the label, and occasionally toured the country, the group never reached the rock-star status that it achieved in Europe. Svensson did not alter his music to try to cross over to a U.S. audience. As he said in the DownBeat cover story: ”I don’t think that people who like the music care whether we’re from here or Sweden. They want to hear good music.”
"Esbjörn Svensson was the finest of all men I ever met, humble, modest, respectful,” said his manager, Burkhard Hopper. “His light truly lit the world and his music inspired people in all corners of this world.”
E.S.T. had recently finished recording its 12th album, Leucocyte.
Svensson is survived by his wife and two children.