Gene Ess brings his award-winning musicianship from a very diverse background. He grew up playing the classical piano, due to his mother being a classical pianist and a well-known piano instructor on the island of Okinawa; 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 the island, 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 all around Okinawa at the age of 14, and was considered a child prodigy by musicians and by his music instructors. Not satisfied, Gene left to George Mason University, where he pursued classical music studies, after high school graduation. There he studied with Larry Snitzler, a prominent concert guitarist who was once Andres Segovia's disciple. Gene also began studying 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, Gene received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he continued his musical quest and was heavily influenced by the music of John Coltrane. During those years, Gene continued performing and started leading his own bands that included, among others, pianist Danilo Perez. The Guitar Player Magazine described the performance of Gene's composition by his group GSQ as "electrifying fusion, played with solid technique and soul". After studies with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos, Gene graduated from Berklee with honors in 1989 and moved to New York in 1990.
Moving to New York in 1990 proved fruitful. Gene's first ‘gig' in New York was at Condon's. In the band, together with Gene, were Rashied Ali, Reggie Workman, Eddie Henderson, Antoine Roney, and Sonelius Smith. Gene's collaboration with Rashied Ali has continued to this day.
A new concept album titled "Sunrise Falling" has been released from AMP Records of U.K. April, 2003. This album incorporates Gene’s interest in computer-generated music. The music is set in a trio concept surrounded by loops, trance, and ambience. The album features all original and new compositions. The sidemen on the recording are Rashied Ali, Matt Garrison, Fima Ephron, and JoJo Mayer.
Gene has performed his music in Europe, Asia, and the United States, both as leader of his own group and as a sideman. To this day, it is impossible to list all the outstanding musicians that Gene has worked with. Some of them are: Carlos Santana, Rashied Ali, Ravi Coltrane, Danilo Perez, Matt Garrison, Santi Debriano, Gene Jackson, Tony Moreno, Lonnie Plaxico, Reggie Workman, Slide Hampton, Cindy Blackman, Archie Shepp, Eddie Henderson, William Calhoun, Kirk Lightsey, Yamastuffa Yosuke, and Masahiko Osaka.