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 U.S. Air Force Base on Okinawa, Gene 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 to an early obsession with music.
Gene performed in clubs and festivals all around Okinawa at the early age of 14. After graduating high school Gene left for George Mason University. There, he 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, Gene 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, Gene graduated from Berklee with honors in 1990 and moved to New York in 1991.
Through the 1990’s Gene recorded and toured globally with the prolific drummer Rashied Ali (known for his association with saxophonist John Coltrane). In 2002, The Rashied Ali Quintet released “No One In Particular,” which was co-produced by Gene and well received by critics.
Gene’s last album Eternal Monomyth was released in May of 2015. The album has received international acclaim and also charted on the national jazz radio chart peaking at #7. The quintet includes some of the best NYC jazz musicians and include: Thana Alexa on voice, John Escreet on piano, Thomson Kneeland on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums. This album received the prestigious “Outstanding Jazz Performance” Award from SESAC in 2016.
The new album, Absurdist Theater, is slated to be released September, 2016. This set of new music continues Gene’s exploration using voice as an instrument in a chamber group setting. On this album, Gene is joined by Thana Alexa on voice, Manuel Valera on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums.
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.