Swedish jazz pianist Esbjorn Svensson dies

June 16, 2008 8:27:14 AM PDT
Swedish jazz pianist Esbjorn Svensson, whose fusion of lyrical melodies and rock-inspired electronics broke fresh ground in modern jazz, has died in a diving accident, his manager said Monday. He was 44.

Svensson died Saturday in a diving accident off a small island near Stockholm, said Burkhard Hopper, manager of the musician's band, the Esbjorn Svensson Trio. Police will conduct a routine investigation of the accident, he said.

Svensson and his band won worldwide critical acclaim and several awards for their 2002 album "Strange Place for Snow," including the Guinness Jazz in Europe Award.

The group also was named best international artist in the 2003 BBC Jazz Awards. Two years later, the trio became the first European jazz band featured on the cover of Downbeat jazz magazine in the U.S.

Hopper said Svensson was instrumental in shaping contemporary jazz. "There was a certain mystique about his music and the interplay with his fellow musicians was absolutely unique."

The band, also known as E.S.T., released "When Everyone Has Gone" in 1993 and had their international breakthrough with the 1999 album "From Gagarin's Point of View."

Hopper said the band had just finished its 12th album, "Leukocyte," to be released in September. "Esbjorn was very happy with the result," he said.

Svensson is survived by his wife and two children. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

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