The inspiration for Apotheosis, Japanese-American guitarist Gene Ess's fourth album, is taken from mythologist James Campbell's book "The Hero with a Thousand Faces," first published in 1949. In this Campbell describes apotheosis as "the expansion of consciousness a hero experiences when defeating his foe."
His theories concerning fictional heroes have been used as a template by many modern writers and artists, including George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars films. Now Ess is applying them to jazz.
He hopes listeners to the album will experience apotheosis, just as he says he did when creating it. On the opening number, "The Return," he is helped by Thana Alexa's wordless vocals and Yasushi Nakamura's bass, followed by Sebastien Amman on piano. Along with the leader's guitar, they create a dense but always melodic entity.
With "Sands of Time" Ess (his full surname is Shimosato) attempts an aural portrait of Okinawa, Japan's southernmost, semi-tropical island, where he was raised on an American military base. Alexa ventures progressively into ever more stratospheric territory, until brought back down to earth by Ammann's piano.
"Same Sky" is based on a poem by Ess and Alexa, "Mine is the same sky we look to, you and I." This is followed by an existential, philosophical question, "How did our eyes learn to see differently?"
"Bluesbird" is wild, choppy and Eric Dolphy-esque. It's followed by Ess's "Tokyo Red" in which he seeks to capture the ambience of Shinjuku and Shibuya at night aided by some lowdown, bluesy piano from Ammann.
"Fireflies of Hiroshima" commemorates the dropping of the atomic bomb that helped to force Japan's surrender at the close of World War Two. It's remarkably lightheartedthe influence of the fireflies no doubt -but with hints of menace here and there. Ess dedicates the album to "those who have endured"heroes one and all.
The Return; Sands of Time (Okinawa); Same Sky; Bluesbird; Tokyo Red; Fireflies of Hiroshima; Day for Night; Two Worlds.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.