327

Gene Ess: Sandbox and Sanctum

Wayne Zade By

Sign in to view read count
Gene Ess: Sandbox and Sanctum Guitarist Gene Ess came to jazz via country rock and blues clubs frequented by US service personnel in Okinawa, classical music studies at George Mason University, and performance studies at Berklee before he hit the New York scene. Upon arriving there, he established key contacts with Matthew Garrison, son of bassist Jimmy; Rashied Ali, one of John Coltrane's last drummers; and Ravi Coltrane, John's son. Ess's early jazz listening centered around recordings by John Coltrane. As he revealed in a 2001 interview for All About Jazz, it was early on in New York that he began to formulate his ambition of writing his own music. Sandbox and Sanctum, Ess's third album under his own name, successfully shows how far he has come in realizing his goal. The restless ghost of John Coltrane could be said to inspire the music he presents here.

The title of the recording calls to mind two famous works of British Romantic poetry, William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience and William Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood, which begins with the line, "The Child is father of the Man. Ess's young son, Ryo, is featured at age two in a photograph on the album, as is Gene Ess himself at the same age, and Ess dedicated the album to Ryo.

But Sandbox and Sanctum is no romanticized, idyllic portrait of childhood. Just as happy children can have bad dreams and be afraid of a dark side they only imagine—the stuff of fairy tales—Ess brilliantly mixes compositional colors throughout the album. He has achieved a delicate tonal balance that unites this "song cycle for quartet, as Ess subtitles the album, perhaps echoing John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, also for quartet.

While a listener might think of Pat Metheny or John Abercrombie or even Grant Green now and then, Ess here really sounds like no one else on guitar: he is his own man. In his solos, his front line playing with the very fine tenor and soprano saxophonist Donny McCaslin (next time: more soprano!), and his comping, Ess is a full-fledged master of taste and touch. His solos are model essays of eloquence and compression. His very special moments occur on acoustic guitar on "Ballad for a Swordsman and a very electric rock-ish "Sun Matsuri.

Just as John Coltrane thrived on a dynamic collaboration with drummer Elvin Jones (as well as Rashied Ali), Ess and drummer Gene Jackson share an intense chemistry on this album. Check out "Baptisma Pyros and "Ask the Guru for evidence of their bond. Jackson manages some fine calypso rhythms in the album's closer, "Kerama Processional as well.

Gene Ess was personally involved in every production detail for Sandbox and Sanctum, and the labor of the love behind the album truly shows. Along with bassist Harvie S (this "S stands for solid and supple), these musicians play like they've been together as a band for a long time. May they continue to play together for a good long time.

Visit Gene Ess on the web.


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.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: SIMP Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door" CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Natural Perception" CD/LP/Track Review Natural Perception
by Edward Blanco
Published: September 5, 2016
Read "Sedimental You" CD/LP/Track Review Sedimental You
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 4, 2016
Read "Untitled" CD/LP/Track Review Untitled
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Life Compass On!" CD/LP/Track Review Life Compass On!
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 5, 2017
Read "Infinitude" CD/LP/Track Review Infinitude
by John Kelman
Published: January 20, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!