298

Gene Ess: Sandbox and Sanctum

Tom Greenland By

Sign in to view read count
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 programmatic song cycle based on the mythic quest of a hero. Following a brief sampled sound-wash and sparse snare drum chatter, Ess' guitar commences with a note of hesitancy, as if our hero were pondering the magnitude of his epic task. Soon it's down to business as guitar and tenor probe the harmonic contours of "Free 2 Fast with angular abandon. "Ryo, a gentle bossa featuring McCaslin's lyricism and Ess' woody midrange, is followed by "Baptisma Pyros, a bop-tism by fire showcasing a series of spontaneous combustions from guitar, tenor, and bass.

"Ballad for a Swordsman reveals the somber reality of a warrior's life through sensitive classical guitar sonorities and thoughtful, melancholic solos, until the group amps up for "Ask the Guru, a composition with trim unison lines, call-and-response sectioning, and featuring McCaslin's swelling chromatic contours and Ess's refreshingly non-guitaristic melodic conception. "Noh Country, an allusion to the traditional theater of Japan—and perhaps the rootlessness of a heroic wayfarer?—recalls the melodies of Gagaku royal court music, rendered here in pentatonic quintuplets over a loping jazz waltz. "Sun Matsuri (Sun Celebration) is even more adventurous, the rhythm section comping 5/4 time under the tenor's seven-beat phrasing, everyone eventually synching up at the 4/4 outro figure.

The mythical journey dénouements with "Kerama Processional, kicked off by Harvey S's Jaco-esque Latin-calypso vamp, punctuated by stop-and-go phrasing from guitar and soprano as the combo marches off towards the horizon, ambiguously overshadowed by a brief reprise of the opening industrial montage.

Track Listing: Free 2 Fast; Ryo; Baptisma Pyros; Ballad for a Swordsman; Ask the Guru; Noh Country; Sun Matsuri; Kerama Pocession.

Personnel: Gene Ess: guitar; Donny McCaslin: tenor and soprano saxophone; Harvie S: bass; Gene Jackson: drums.

Title: Sandbox and Sanctum | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: SIMP Records

About Gene Ess
Articles | Calendar | Discography | Photos | More...

Tags

Jazz Near New York City
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related

Read Hiding Out
Hiding Out
By Jack Bowers
Read Irrationalities
Irrationalities
By Mark Corroto
Read Cobb's Pocket
Cobb's Pocket
By Nicholas F. Mondello
Read Cobb's Pocket
Cobb's Pocket
By Dan Bilawsky
Read Blues For Charlie
Blues For Charlie
By Jim Worsley
Read Cause and Effect
Cause and Effect
By Ian Patterson
Read Geschmacksarbeit
Geschmacksarbeit
By John Eyles