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E.S.T.

Easily my favorite band the last year is E.S.T., the Esbjörn Svensson Trio. A pop band that plays jazz or vice versa, these three Swedes are redefining the jazz piano trio for the new millenium. They do it all, whether mellowing to a ballad with classical overtones, covering Thelonius Monk, punching out a pop hook that would get Linus and Snoopy jumping, or breaking all the rules with esoteric experimental improvisations.

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My wife, Mary and I had the pleasure of seeing them play live last summer on the night of our eighteenth wedding anniversary. They knocked me out, absolutely, playing tightly and in total sync, all the while free and loose in the intimate setting of the Dakota Jazz Club, located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The group nailed more traditional jazz numbers, then flipped it over to use their instruments in crazy and inventive ways to produce weird, otherworldy sounds. My favorite track is Spunky Sprawl, a tune which would make Vince Guaraldi of Peanuts fame proud. The album where that song can be found, Strange Place For Snow is a great place to start. Or try their latest studio effort, Tuesday Wonderland. Check out their music at the official E.S.T. site, their MySpace page, or watch the video of the last five minutes of a recent concert. Give them a listen; you won't be sorry.