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Swedish Jazz Legend Dies at 44

GUY RAZ, host:

This is the music of Swedish jazz pianist Esbjorn Svennson. He died last week at the age of 44 in a scuba diving accident. His experimental jazz outfit, the Esbjorn Svennson Trio or EST had a wide following in Europe. Svennson himself was often called the European Keith Jarrett. He wasn't a purist when it came to jazz. Svennson borrowed from hip-hop, and funk, and rock music.

He and his band mates would sometimes feed their instruments through different machines to warp the effect and make the music sound like something a traditional jazz trio could never produce.

(Soundbite of EST)

RAZ: Svennson would even reach into the bowels of his piano to pluck the strings.

Mr. ESBJORN SVENNSON (Musician): Which a lot of piano technicians just hate.

RAZ: That's Esbjorn Svennson speaking with NPR's Brian Naylor in 2002.

Mr. SVENNSON: There's a lot of interesting thing actually going on in Europe and we don't have the tradition like you have here with your own folk music. We don't have to take care about it in that sense. So we can experiment more maybe and add some rock and roll, add some classical music, whatever we want, to add some new sound.

(Soundbite of EST)

RAZ: Jazz critic Ian Patterson writes that Svennson's death brought down the curtain upon one of the most brilliant piano trios to enliven the modern jazz panorama, unsettled the jazz police, and to attract all comers. Pianist Esbjorn Svennson was 44 years old. Just before his death, he and his band finished recording their 12th album. It's due out this September. We leave you now with his 2002 composition, "Bound for the Beauty of the South."

(Soundbite of "Bound for the Beauty of the South") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Guy Raz
Guy Raz is an independent producer who has been described by the New York Times as "one of the most popular podcasters in history."