Japanese reared and New York City-based guitarist Gene Ess was a child prodigy and performed at clubs around Okinawa commencing at the tender age of fourteen. Fast-forwarding, Ess’ ongoing collaboration with famed drummer Rashied Ali’s Quintet serves as a vital launching pad for his distinct presence. Ess is also an accomplished classical guitarist, hearkening back to his studies with Andres Segovia student, Larry Snitzer. Nonetheless, the guitarist generates some high-heat on this largely explosive and thoroughly hip quartet session, where the band projects oomph and pizzazz during stinging bop movements and more.
Simply stated, the ensemble smokes! Here, Ess charts out a buoyant progressive-jazz manifesto via his animated and climactically oriented phrasings, topped off with stinging single note licks. And it’s all abetted by his fruitful endeavors with pianist Tigran Hamasyan and a powerhouse rhythm section.
The quintet delves into circular themes, occasionally injected with linear-type breakouts and rippling choruses, featuring the soloists’ forceful reinventions of a given melody line. When Hamasyan employs his Fender Rhodes piano, the band takes on a jazz-fusion gait, accelerated by Ess’ use of distortion techniques and acutely enacted dynamics. However, they lower the temperature in spots with softly iterated passages.
Drummer Tyshawn Sorey stretches out with polyrhythmic fury on "Hero To Wizard," which is a piece engineered upon variable metrics and pulses. Yet Ess’ inventiveness continues during "Gagaku Dreams," that commences with an ethereal storyline, and seamlessly blossoms into a memorably melodic ballad.
Ess is most assuredly an artiste who possesses the goods to become a prominent figure within the global modern jazz landscape. A cunning composer and fluent technician, he often strays from predictable outcomes while doing his best to inject a nouveau mindset into the big picture. In sum, he gets to the meat of matters while sustaining a great deal of interest throughout. It’s a superfine album that duly project’s the guitarist’s prismatic approach to composition. (A top pick for 2008...)