Using the voice as a melodic and harmonic instrument above and beyond scat singing or vocalese is increasing in popularity, as evidenced in recordings like Beata Pater's Red
(B&B Records, 2013) and Lola Danza's The Island
(Evolver, 2012). Vocalist Thana Alexa
joins guitarist Gene Ess for an expansion of Ess' genre-breaking jazz philosophy, using the human voice as instrument, thus broadening its palette of applications in jazz.
On the whole, Ess' compositions are angular, with sharp corners and dissonant tendencies. "Silver's Fate" is serpentine, with a complex head that gives way to straight scat singing by Alexa. "Blues for Two" is a bouncing, traditional tune, tightly arranged and delivered. The lengthiest piece on the recording, the 14-minute long "Ascent," is characterized by a John Cage
-informed prepared piano approach, executed by David Berkman
and Ess in a seamless cascade of musical ideas rolling over one another. While this music sounds free- wheeling, it is an affectation; Ess' compositions are all well-considered and thoughtfully conceived and arranged. The presence of Alexa is merely an extension of Ess' vision, one that is amply realized.
Personnel: Gene Ess: guitar; Thana Alexa: voice; David Berkman: piano; Thomson
Kneeland: bass; Gene Jackson: drums.