Guitarist and composer. He wanted to become a lawyer or a doctor but alas, he ended up a jazz musician and thereby keeping all his relatives away and confused. One of the few perks of being a "jazz cat".
Award winning guitarist, Gene Ess, draws upon a diverse background to form his unique style. Studying classical piano, Gene's early years were filled with sounds of Beethoven and Chopin. Originally from Tokyo, Japan and growing up on a US Air Force Base on Okinawa, Ess was simultaneously receiving a mix of influences: he was exposed to the indigenous music of Okinawa and - to the pop and jazz music coming out of the clubs for the American soldiers. All this amounted for an early obsession with music.
Considered a child prodigy by fellow musicians and instructors, Ess performed in clubs and festivals all around Okinawa at the early age of 14. After graduating high school, not satisfied, Ess left for George Mason University. There, Ess pursued classical music studies with Larry Snitzler, a prominent concert guitarist who was Andrés Segovia's disciple and orchestral composition under Dr. Glenn Smith.
Downbeat magazine presented Gene's performance of Lennox Berkeley's 'Theme and Variations' with the 'Outstanding Performance Award' in 1983. Consequently, Ess received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. There he continued his musical quest and was heavily influenced by the music of John Coltrane. After studies with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos, Ess graduated from Berklee with honors in 1990 and moved to New York in 1991.
During the 90's he worked with the great drummer Rashied Ali, touring globally and recording a well received album "No One in Particular". Through this group, Gene met and played with Carlos Santana, Ravi Coltrane, Matt Garrison, Lonnie Plaxico, Archie Shepp, and Reggie Workman among many others.
Gene's 2009 album, "Modes of Limited Transcendence," has received great reviews globally. This album received the prestigious 2010 SESAC Outstanding Jazz Performance Award. The music features original compositions by Gene and piano wunderkind Tigran Hamasyan.
In 2012, Gene released a new album featuring vocals for the first time. The album titled "A Thousand Summers" will be available February 1, 2012. The music features Nicki Parrott on vocals and beautiful songs from the jazz canon carefully arranged by Gene and Thomson Kneeland.
Gene's current album "Fractal Attraction" was released in May of 2013. This set of music continues Gene's exploration using voice as an instrument in a chamber group setting. The album has received international acclaim and also charted on the national jazz radio chart peaking at #3! Quite a feat for an independent release album. The quintet includes some of the best NYC jazz musicians and include Thana Alexa on voice, David Berkman on piano, Thomson Kneeland on bass, and Gene Jackson on drums.
Gene is also a member of a NYC collective - the Kettle Music Collective. The collective will present member concerts, private instruction, group workshops, and look to work with other like-minded international and domestic music collectives in intellectual and artistic exchange. It currently presents monthly performance series at iBeam, Brooklyn where the members perform with their various ensembles.
Over his career, Gene has performed and recorded with many wonderful musicians. Some are Dave Liebman, Al Foster, Rashied Ali, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Carlos Santana, Archie Shepp, Reggie Workman, Tigran Hamasyan, and Ravi Coltrane.
Gene can be heard in various venues and festivals here in NYC and Europe and Asia. Some are Blue Note NYC, 55Bar, Iridium, ShapeShifter Lab, iBeam, Red Hook Jazz Festival, Yokohama Jazz Festival, Pit Inn, Antibes Jazz Festival, Strasbourg Jazz Festival, and Teatro Monumental (Madrid).
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