Thu, 22 September 2016
If you listened to Podcast 471 last March, you heard singer/composer Thana Alexa sing the praises of guitarist Gene Ess. Ms. Alexa collaborated with Gene on his two releases, Fractal Attraction and Eternal Monomyth, two of a series of fine albums he has made since leaving the Rashied Ali Quartet over a decade ago.
Growing up on a US Army base in Okinawa, Japan, Gene was exposed at an early age to a wide variety of music (his mother is a classical pianist), which goes a long way to explain his sound on electric guitar. A graduate of Berklee School of Music, he arrived in New York after a chance meeting with Rashied Ali. The drummer, who was a member of John Coltrane’s last band and a veteran of sessions with Gary Bartz, Alice Coltrane and David Murray, helped shape Ess’ approach to jazz and to life itself, bringing him closer to Coltrane and his legacy than any text could ever. Ess traveled the world with Ali, and played with Coltrane alum Reggie Workman; Coltrane’s son Ravi; Carlos Santana and Lonnie Plaxico.
He has released six albums under his own name, the most recent of which have added vocals to his already eclectic sound. Ess’ latest CD is Absurdist Theater. He has again brought Ms. Alexa on board to lend her vocals (she also contributes lyrics to two tunes) and assembled a truly diverse band – Cuban pianist Manuel Valera; Japanese bassist Yasushi Nakamura and American Clarence Penn on drums. Thematically the CD attempts to take the listener on a journey to explore the philosophical idea of absurdism, contrasting our search of meaning in this life with the sheer joy of musical aesthetics. If this all sounds pretty weighty be assured that the music is hardly ponderous and overwrought.
Musical selections include “Torii (The Gate)” and Gene’s tribute to Ornette Coleman, “Forkball”.
A CD release party for Absurdist Theater will take place at the Blue Note in New York on September 25th, 2016.