Esbjorn Svensson. June 2008.

I have just learned that Esbjorn Svensson has died.

I was quite shocked by this. Jazz is full of stars who are near to death – there are several musicians I have been to see only because I thought it might be my last chance. (Sometimes I was right.)

But Svensson was younger than me; he died in a scuba diving accident. It is very tragic.

I first saw his band, the Esbjorn Svensson Trio – EST – play ten years ago or so, in a small bar in a basement in Edinburgh. I had been bullied to go by a friend who was promoting the concert. (They told me this evening he had died; I hadn’t seen the papers on Tuesday.) It was crowded that night; I sat in the front row, close enough to Svensson’s piano to turn the music if he had needed it.

It was a brilliant gig: vibrant and exciting, the three musicians producing more sounds than three people ought to. It was very much a band – they were EST rather than Svensson’s band. It is probably the best gig I have been to – well, one of the best. (I have been to a few!)

After that I caught EST whenever I could: I saw them play several times in Edinburgh, in Dundee a couple of times, and in Amsterdam once. I last saw them a year ago – not a great gig: they were in the Usher Hall, and they couldn’t fill such a big space. A friend saw them on the same tour in London, and said they were brilliant, so maybe I just caught an off night.

I was about to buy tickets for their scheduled gig in next month’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival.

Instead, there is an empty space.

I am saddened, and shocked; and I wonder what will happen to the music.

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