Finland's Verneri Pohjola got five stars in these pages last year for his sumptuously colourful big-band album Aurora. Ancient History is for the trumpeter's quartet with the daring pianist Aki Rissanen, and though it isn't as atmospheric, it has a comparable thematic strength and plenty of compelling improvising. The only cover is of Björk's lyrical Hyperballad, which Pohjola explores in half-valve slurs and sighs (he has affinities with Norway's Arve Henriksen and America's Ambrose Akinmusire) mingled with hints of postbop phrasing against a scramble of free percussion.
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.