GoGo Penguin’s Man Made Object – The True Successor to EST?

Esbjörn Svensson Trio

I’ve previously written about the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (EST) and their essential role of bringing the Jazz Piano Trio to the 21st century.

However, with the untimely death of Esbjörn Svensson in 2008, I’ve been wondering who would become a worthy successor.

I’ve written about a number of piano trios already, and there is certainly no lack of exciting new trios around. However, none of the trios I’ve written about got close to the particularity of the EST combining elements outside of Jazz into the art form, and having a focus on rhythms that come more from pop, rock, and electro. Well, maybe the US trio The Big Plus, or the Swiss Rusconi (that I both have yet to write about).

However, there is one trio that probably get’s closest to the originality of EST.

GoGo Penguin

Manchester-based GoGo Penguin, has already released two albums, Fanfares (2012), and v2.0 (2014). I started noticing them with the latter album, which I really like.

The trio is drummer Rob Turner, double bassist Nick Blacka and pianist Chris Illingworth. This order is taken directly from their website, and is inverting the usual order of giving the pianist’s name first. Well, I’m pretty sure this order is a very conscious choice, as Rob’s pulsating rhythms are really what sets this group apart from all other trios I’ve heard so far.

Man Made Object (2016 Blue Note)

This is the group’s first album on Blue Note, which should hopefully help them to get to the level of awareness they should be at.

GoGo Penguin Man Made Object 24/44 Blue Note 2016

I bought this album pretty much immediately when it came out.

The rhythmic drive, which is clearly influenced by contemporary electro music, is addictive. Combine to this the groove of Blacka’s bass, and Illingworth’ rather simple, but fascinating harmonics, and you cannot help but being drawn into the music.

My favorite tracks on this album are Weird Cat, epitomizing their style. Smart is another great example. You start out with an experimental intro and then jump pretty much immediately in a strongly syncopated groove by Turner and is joined by Blacka and Illingworth to slowly build up an entire harmonic and rhythmic landscape. Amazing.

Here’s the official video for the opening track, All Res, that should give you a pretty good idea:

 

My rating: 5 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) or here (Prostudiomasters)

Esbjörn Svensson Trio Live In Hamburg

I’ve received quite a bit of feedback on my posts on my 25 essential Jazz albums. Many of them were asking why artist X, Y or Z wasn’t listed. Most of these had a point.

The Esbjörn Svensson Trio

One example is the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.). Why didn’t I list it? if we do a brief history of (no, not time, come on guys, I’m not Stephen Hawking) the Jazz Piano Trio, from its early starts in the 1950s with the like of Art Tatum, Errol Garner, and Oscar Peterson, I see three major steps in the development:

Bill Evans took this art form to a much higher intellectual level, and made sure all 3 musician are true partners. Keith Jarrett took over when Bill unfortunately left us and dominated the art for for twenty years, until a bunch of Scandinavians around Esbjörn Svensson came, and brought this art form to the 21st century, and introducing it to audiences way beyond the traditional Jazz audience, as there is a lot of rock and electronic influence.

So why the heck haven’t I reviewed any album of this trio yet (although to be fair I mention it regularly)? The answer is easy, e..t. is a bit too much out of the box for me on most of their albums (I’m a guy who’s extremely comfortable IN the box!). There’s usually some “craziness” going on, and quite often just a bit too much for my personal taste. That said, I fully recognize their importance. Unfortunately we lost an outstanding musician when Esbjörn died in a diving accident in 2008.

 Live in Hamburg

Esbjörn Svensson Trio Live in Hamburg

This 2007 live album (released on ACT) from a late 2006 concert (in Hamburg obviously) is just outstanding, and shows e.s.t. at their peak.

There is still some craziness ongoing (e.g. Definition of A Dog), but overall it is tame enough for my ears to really enjoy it,. And then, there is just tons of energy, including outstanding 17:39 minute long tracks like Dolores In A Shoestand. There is not a minute of boredom. This is two hours of pure adrenaline!

My rating: 5 stars

You can get it here (Qobuz), or go for the high quality 4 vinyl edition