Primary Instrument: Guitar
Guitarist Gene Ess brings his award-winning musicianship from a very diverse background. He grew up playing the classical piano and his early years were filled with the classical sounds of Beethoven and Chopin. Simultaneously, Gene was receiving a mix of influences: he was exposed to the indigenous music of Okinawa-Japan, and - growing up on a US Air Force Base- to the pop and jazz music coming out of the clubs for the American soldiers. All this amounted for an early obsession with music.
Gene performed in clubs and festivals all around Okinawa at the age of 14 playing popular music. The popular music did not satisfy Gene and after high school graduation, Gene left for George Mason University, where he pursued classical music studies...
He was born Gene Shimosato, a cool enough name right there but that’s besides the point. For now he is known as Gene Ess, which in a way is cool in itself but that will leave potential listeners and fans to question “what’s Ess?” Now you know. He could’ve been Gene @, and people would’ve asked “at what?” At his music, that’s what, and his music is incredibly played and recorded on his brand new album, Modes Of Limited Transcendence (SIMP). Ess produced this alongside engineer Randy Crafton and mix engineer Sal Mormando, and on top of that, Ess mastered this disc himself. The Japanese tend to have a keen ear, and as I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Oliver Sacks Musicophilia I learned that there is a strong belief that some ethnicities do have a better sense of listening and comprehension, although it is uncertain still as to how this happened. Is it with the ear canal, or the hairs within the ear? That’s besides the point, for we are talking about Gene Ess.
Ess plays the guitar in a Pat Martino-style occasionally offering a few Pat Metheny touches, or at least this is what I hear. Whether it’s a luxurious solo or something that plays along the piano melody (courtesy of Tigran Hamasyan, he plays with such elegance and grace that you wished he would record more so you could buy his entire discography, or hopes he performs at a nearby jazz venue for two weeks so you could skip meals and check out whatever they play. Then there’s the incredible rhythm section of Tyshawn Sorey drums and Harvie S (no relation to Ess, on bass), and these guys play with the kind of finesse reminiscent of some of the best jazz albums of the 1970’s, when freeform could weave itself into bebop or bop while mellowing out in the ECM range. “Messiaen Shuffle” is a track that combines all of these elements into an energetic song where you can visualize the walk and strut created by Ess while the traffic and disgrunted faces (created beautifully by Hamasyan, S, and Sorey) are put in view. The tone that Ess has is most welcome, not distorted nor complex, not unlike Larry Coryell. The contrasts and coloring of these musicians are not so much precise, but… how do I say this, it’s an exciting listen to not only hear musicians play like this, but to hear it recorded and mixed so well.
Keen musicianships, keen ears, keen love of jazz and music, and creativity in general. If you welcome these things, welcome Gene Ess into your mental vicinity. One of the best jazz albums of 2008. ~RunOff Groove
Sandbox and Sanctum
Personnel: Gene Ess, Harvie S, Donny McCaslin, Gene Jackson
Personnel: Gene Ess, Matt Garrison, JoJo Mayer, Rashied Ali, Fima Ephron
Prayer for September
King Records - Paddle Wheel
Personnel: Gene Ess, Ravi Coltrane, Takuya Nakamura, Tony Moreno, Lonnie Plaxico
As A Side Musician
No One In Particular
Rashied Ali Quintet
Personnel: Rashied Ali, Ravi Coltrane, Gene Ess, Matt Garrison, Greg Murphy
First Flash of Success
Big A Records
Personnel: Bob Malone, Gene Ess, Phil Antoniades, Eric Vincenot
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students