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Gene Ess: Blending Passionate and Pensive

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Fresh off the release of Fractal Attraction (Simp, 2013), which blends traditional combo jazz lineups and approaches with a unique take on vocal jazz, Gene Ess is a man with a lot on his mind as it pertains to career, place--and music in general.Ess is enthusiastic about his love of jazz, classical and rock music, but is also pensive about the tough state of the music economy and the prospects for working jazz. He's also excited about the immediacy and interplay of his guitar work with vocalist Thana Alexa, as evidenced by Fractal Attraction.'Fractal' is the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ess: Fractal Attraction

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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. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ess: A Thousand Summers

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In a rare departure for Gene Ess, who has always favored original music and instrumentals, the veteran jazz guitarist has partnered with acclaimed vocalist and bassist Nicki Parrott for A Thousand Summers, a refined album of familiar jazz standards and love songs. When Ess began developing the project, he naturally focused on new material. One day he performed with a singer at New York's renowned Blue Note jazz club. As he so aptly puts it, the experience “seemed to have triggered something in my soul... I started to hear a whole new sound." That new sound, in this case, is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ess: Modes of Limited Transcendence

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An award-winning guitarist and vital part of the music scene in New York city since moving there in 1991, Gene Ess continues his exploration of music with another dose of tasteful modern jazz featuring sophisticated and engaging compositions on Modes of Limited Transcendence. A classically-trained pianist, Ess also plays the electric guitar and is often compared to John Scofield and John Abercrombie in style. Once considered a child prodigy, Ess draws on pop, jazz, and classical influences when composing his music--though with this recording it's all modern, mainstream material. A man with a social conscience and a forum to express ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ess: Modes of Limited Transcendence

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Guitarist Gene Ess put together a quartet with saxophonist Donny McCaslin for his Sandbox and Sanctum (SIMP Music, 2005) . On Modes of Limited Transcendence he ups the harmonic ingenuity factor with a different quartet, replacing the horn with a guitar, to craft an often cooking, quartet-of-equals chamber vibe.Ess began his musical journey as a pianist, but left the eighty-eight keys for the six strings. His chording cohort on the set, pianist Tigran Hamasyan, comps behind the leader with a sparkling zest, mixes and melds harmonies with the leader, and takes his own vibrant solo spots. Bassist Harvie ...

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Gene Ess: One Note Says It All

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Guitarist Gene Ess--born Gene Shimosato--grew up on an American military base in Okinawa, Japan, and the eclectic mix of music he was exposed to there gave him a far-reaching enthusiasm for music. It also, perhaps, pulled him away from the classical piano his mother had encouraged him to pursue. A musical scholarship sent him to the Berklee College of Music in Boston and meaningful apprenticeships with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and pianist Charlie Banacos. It was inevitable that Ess would relocate to New York, where he joined drummer Rashied Ali's group; the two still work together. Last year saw the release ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ess: Sandbox and Sanctum

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Guitarist Gene Ess' third effort as a leader is a noteworthy departure from his sophomore release (Sunrise Falling, Amp Records 2003) in significant ways: while the earlier work straddled rock and fusion-jazz sensibilities, forefronting groove and melody with looped electronica and digital pastiche, the latest is leaner, cleaner, and full straight-ahead, underscoring the guitarist's impeccable tone and taste. More importantly, it represents Ess, for the first time, in complete artistic control of compositions, arrangements, recording, mixing/mastering, and production--with admirable results.

The quartet, rounded out by Donny McCaslin (tenor and soprano saxophones), Harvie S (bass), and Gene Jackson (drums), explores a ...



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