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Sandbox and Sanctum by Gene Ess

With the release of Sandbox and Sanctum, Gene Ess has firmly cemented his place as a major jazz artist of the new millennium. His post-bop work is delivered with adventurous spirit and intense ethos, offering a powerful, unique voice to the idiom.

A guitarist of virtuousic proportions, Ess plays fluid chromatic lines sometimes reminiscent of John Abercrombie. His performance is simply stated, yet reveals stunning technical fluency, the signature of all true greats. There’s a delicious sense of tension/release with his performance riding over the rhythm section, Ess is a master of the art of creating dynamic interplay. Supple, sanguine, and superb are the three words that kept popping into my head as I listened, this recording knocked my socks off and will be in my CD player on a regular basis for many years to come.

For this quartet outing, Ess has enlisted a first-class ensemble with Gene Jackson’s drum set, bassist Harvie S and saxophonist Donny McCaslin. The four create a carefully constructed, masterful expression of the artist’s compositions, eloquently stated with a profoundly deep vision imbued with creativity and thoughtfulness.

Jackson’s drums synthesize with Ess’s guitar in the style of Coltrane and Elvin Jones, he kicks this musical venture into high gear with unbelievable speed and dexterity in his stick, brush and cymbal work. Bassist Harvie S puts in an astounding performance with a facile, melodic performance, creating a symbiotic interplay with drummer Jackson for a swift and assured bottom end. Grammy nominee McCaslin is a fine player who offers beautiful rich tone and sinewy sax lines to the overall sound, weaving amongst the voices of the other players in a seemingly effortless performance.

From beginning to end this recording is filled with delightful surprises in context, substance, and passionate expressiveness. There isn’t a single moment when one isn’t completely enthralled with the musical virtuousity, superb composition, and stunning production values, the whole of which transcends the music and takes the listener to another graceful dimension.

Understated and exquisite, Ess has brought these four masters together to fuse their individual voices into one glorious masterpiece. Highly recommended.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Gene Ess
  • CD Title: Sandbox and Sanctum
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: SIMP Records
  • Tracks: Free 2 Fast, Ryo, Baptisma Pyros, Ballad for a Swordsman, Ask the Guru, Noh Country, Sun Matsuri, Kerama Processional
  • Musicians: Gene Ess (Guitars), Donny McCaslin (Tenor/Soprano Saxophone), Harvie S (Bass), Gene Jackson (Drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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