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Gene Ess | Apotheosis

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Jazz: Chamber Jazz Jazz: Modern Creative Jazz Moods: Mood: Intellectual
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by Gene Ess

Gene Ess & Fractal Attraction releases their fourth album "Apotheosis" - regarded as one of the most unique, and fresh ensembles on the jazz scene today - presents the timbral and textural exploration of the guitar and female voice.
Genre: Jazz: Chamber Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Return
9:11 album only
2. Sands of Time (Okinawa)
7:36 album only
3. Same Sky
3:21 album only
4. Bluesbird
6:16 album only
5. Tokyo Red
7:46 album only
6. Fireflies of Hiroshima
4:29 album only
7. Day for Night
7:33 album only
8. Two Worlds
7:32 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The music of Gene Ess speaks to the astonishing quality of the spirit and of the ability of human beings to crush adverse circumstances in life, and rise above through inner transformations. Joseph Campbell in his seminal work The Hero With A Thousand Faces (1949) defined apotheosis as “the expansion of consciousness a hero experiences when defeating his foe”. With Fractal Attraction, Ess has charted his own journey of navigating through life and approaching the state Campbell described beginning in 2013, and has arrived with Apotheosis, the recording you are are physically holding in your hand or digitally consuming. The band consisting of Ess on guitar; Thana Alexa: voice; Sebastien Ammann: piano; Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and veteran drummer Clarence Penn (who replaced Gene Jackson after the initial self titled album) has grown into one of the most unique, and fresh ensembles in jazz today. Ess's timbral and textural exploration of the guitar and female voice blends perfectly with detailed compositional structures that contain plenty of room for improvisation.

The guitarist's return to Japan in over twenty years was the catalyst for the music of Apotheosis, and it represents an enthralling entry into the four album series, with the latest chapter fully embodying Campbell's idea of the hero victorious over foe. Whereas the previous album Absurdist Theater imagines the hero grappling with internal roadblocks and emotions at the absolute horrors of the world. Living in the world is a test of saha, or endurance and the music of Apotheosis is the hero breaking through those obstacles, and a feeling of joy permeates no matter what. The foe isn't necessarily external, but our greatest opponent in life is ourselves: we as human beings hold ourselves back from achieving our full potential. The quintet is a marvel at breathing as one, leaving all egos at the door to bring life to the leader's vision, and below is a brief description of the feelings Ess creates through the music on the album.

A strangely enchanting synth arpeggio from the guitarist's Roland GR 55 guitar synthesizer brings the listener into The Return putting into auditory form the exhilaration of being back in a place one hasn't for a long time. Yasushi Nakamura's electric bass melody ushers in a cinematic song form to showcase striking melody and interesting harmony. On the second pass of the initial melody fragment, Ess's counterpoint and Alexa's legato tones are quite attractive. The guitar and female voice are once again an irresistible duo. Alexa's powerful improvisational sense is showcased first through well chosen, sometimes pirouetting lines into a glorious peak. The guitarist follows with a sweetly over driven tone, mixing the cerebral with running eighth note type lines enhancing drama. Sebastien Ammann has been one of the most in demand pianists in New York and shows why during his turn in the spotlight.

Sands Of Time (Okinawa) is a lilting waltz where the listener can imagine the village perhaps in sepia tones like an old photograph or movie. The composition engenders a feeling of history melding with the present. Ess' warm hollow body tone waxes a lyrical calm, and Alexa flies emitting an Ella Fitzgerald like passion. At the tune's close, quiet strains of shamisen bring the past in the present as things suddenly turn technicolor.

Fractal Attraction's albums have always dealt with contemporary society in an engaging manner, and Same Sky once again features Thana's gift for thought provoking lyrics, this time lamenting on the current and social climate. Her lyrics are a moving, quiet call for unity, trying to make sense of the ridiculous borders people erect when there is so much common ground to be had as humans. Ess' folksy pop inflected solo is splendid following the first verse.

Bluesbird is finger popping blues line that would make a great set ender, and affords everyone the chance to loosen up. The head has a quirky Eric Dolphy esque quality and everyone just gleefully SWINGS with abandon. Dig Nakamura's agile bass solo with a sly Ron Carter nod in the second chorus, and the twelve bar exchanges between Ammann and Penn, with slick use of the more traditional jazz tuned snare, and deeper, dead effects snare reminiscent of so many 70's recordings.

Tokyo Red aurally depicts the vibrant night scene that one could find moving through Shinjuku or Shibuya. The piece grooves straight off with a ripping back beat, while painstakingly manually layered distorted guitar and voice create another fascinating textural component, almost sounding as if a few keys are going on at once. Ammann dives deep into his solo on this one, with everyone else functioning at a similarly heightened inspiration level.

Fireflies of Hiroshima is inspired by the horrendous act of the atomic bomb being dropped during World War II and brings to mind the important and heart wrenching 1988 Japanese animated classic Grave Of The Fireflies. Firefly watching is also a popular pastime in Japanese summers. Visiting Hiroshima has been a heavy, meaningful experience, a time of reflection and prayer. Towards the climax Alexa's multi tracked harmony, Ess' acoustic guitar, and Ammann's flittering figures are breathtaking, summoning not only the spirits of those lost, but ancestors in the spiritual world in repose and the wondrous golden glow of the fireflies on a slightly humid evening.

Day For Night is another swinger and allows everyone to shine brightly on the penultimate track, while Two Worlds features a galvanizing melody as if to say “this is the time” and makes clear in no certain terms that the hero's consciousness has changed, has found triumph and has found a spot of joy in the world. The tune features a great vamp for Penn to flex his muscle. With a quiet ending, it brings the latest chapter of Fractal Attraction to a close. Through the moods, and passion of the music hopefully the listener can find his or her own apotheosis, Gene Ess has created one of his finest statements to date with this release, sit back and enjoy!



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