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Magnus Öström live review - Ronnie Scott's, London

Former e.s.t member Magnus Öström impresses the audience at Ronnie Scott's

audience at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

Contrary to evidence on social media, this writer doesn’t only go to Ronnie Scott’s for its cocktail bar. Equally tempting is this iconic venue’s booking policy and a low-lit, modish space that makes any gig seem exclusive and unique. This place has vibes, man. Sixty years of ’em.

So it’s no surprise that acts often immediately convey delight in playing here, and former e.s.t. member Magnus Öström does just that. Standing behind his drums, head bowed slightly into a gripped mic, the Swede recalls previous visits to London and other tales from his 30-year avant-jazz career. He’s likeable, dry and a little bashful, but the drum kit is his comfort zone and we quickly adjust with him as he starts the Roobarb splashabout Dog On The Beach in this track-by-track run-through of third album Parachute.

His bandmates are fluid and cool – top-knotted bass funkateer Thobias Gabrielson, floral sweat-shirted pianist Adam Forkelid and lightly tanned’n’tattooed guitarist Andreas Hourdakis, whom Öström revels in embarrassing by drawing attention to his enthusiastic female fans. Junas is an early high point of circular, minimalist riffs and feather‑light plucking that brilliantly unpicks itself and restarts again midway through. Öström as a young buck carousing in the capital’s pubs resonates through brushwork ballad The Green Man And The French Horn before the album title track picks up again with a tour de force of bright repeat hooks and jazz-Rachmaninov piano from Forkelid. To finish their first set, The Shore Of Unsure takes a DJ Shadow-like trip-hop turn, Öström keeping a relentlessly taut shuffle breakbeat for over seven minutes.

Set two fires up with a rocky Reedjoyce – far more in-yer-face than on record – before album closer All The Remaining Days provides a laid-back, Pat Metheny-ish groove. The last four songs, all older tracks, ramp things up further. The poignant Ballad For E and Longing (both from 2011 debut Thread Of Life) reach out to Öström’s friend and e.s.t. bandleader Esbjorn Svensson, who died in 2008, leaving Öström’s work with an impassioned thumbprint.

Dancing At The Dutch Treat’s impish interplay and At The End Of Eternity’s FX-pedal frenzy – enhanced by Spaced Viking Gabrielson’s P-Funk synth bass throb – really impress, revealing a quartet who are gliding on expertise and invention, in spite of emotional freefall.

Jo Kendall

Embracing weird, wild and wonderful sounds, Prog's Associate Editor Jo's also a Classic Rock columnist, an avid tea-drinker and cupcake fancier.