The Sanskrit word tīrtha (THEER-tha) literally means a ford, or a shallow place in a river that can be easily crossed over. Within a spiritual context, tirtha denotes a holy place near a body of water - somewhere where everyday struggles fall away, and where one passes easily into a deeper and more profound state of being. Aptly, Tirtha is now also the name of a phenomenal trio featuring three powerhouse musicians who at once honor and traverse the streams of tradition. It is also the name of their exciting new album on ACT. Individually, Indian-American pianist-composer Vijay Iyer, Chennai (formerly Madras)-born guitarist-composer Prasanna, and Hyderabad native and tabla player Nitin Mitta are already highly accomplished artists who shift easily among multiple musical languages.
It was through the influence of Landgren and Svensson’s former teacher Bengt-Arne Wallin, who recorded the landmark album “Old Folklore In Swedish Modern” back in 1962 (ACT 9254-2), that Svensson and Landgren were inspired to make a duo album centered around folk songs. In August 1997 both went into the studio and with only trombone and piano recorded Swedish Folk Modern (ACT 9257-2). Their improvised treatments of the classic songs of the folk culture not only impressed the public; it brought praise from the press.
The baritone saxophone is seldom heard outside brass sections of big bands. As a solo instrument or as the only brass instrument in a band it is a real rarity and there is only one female baritone saxophonist who truly masters her instrument – Céline Bonacina. You might be surprised to see the petite Frenchwoman pick up an instrument that is almost the same size as her but, when she starts playing, the mésalliance becomes a symbiosis and the sound flows out without effort.
It's a damn shame that Leucocyte is the final studio album by the Esbjörn Svensson Trio. Svensson died in a tragic diving accident in June of 2008, shortly after this set was finished. More than any other recording issued by this excellent band, Leucocyte captures the art of music making at the moment of conception; it was recorded as live-in-the-studio improvisation over two days in an Australian studio. It was completely finished, post-production and all, with a release date before Svensson's death. The words "post-production" mean plenty when it comes to E.S.T.'s music. The trio often recorded and added sonic effects to their structured, composed pieces. It underscored their hip sophistication and accessibility. It made them a hit with both jazz fans and younger audiences who listen to Radiohead, Sigur Rós, and even heavy metal more than jazz.