Guitarist Gene Ess brings his award-winning musicianship from a very diverse background. He grew up playing the classical piano and 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 and festivals 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 for 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 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 1991.
Moving to New York proved fruitful. Gene's first 'gig' in New York was at Condon's with Rashied Ali Quintet. In the band along with Rashied were Reggie Workman and Eddie Henderson. Gene's collaboration with Rashied Ali has continued to this day. Checkout Rashied's guest spot on Gene's acclaimed "Sunrise Falling" album.
"Sandbox and Sanctum" is Gene's latest work. It is a series of 8 original compositions tied together into a song cycle for quartet. The music takes us through an audio journey of all things innocently joyful and sacred in our lives. The performance on this album is filled with individual fire and collective coherence. The album features the great Harvie S on bass along with Donny McCaslin and Gene Jackson. Both Donny and Gene Jackson add their prodigious talents throughout. Checkout Donny's solo on the first track "Free 2 Fast" and Gene Jackson's comping behind it! Gene Ess burns throughout the album with a deep woody tone creating lines lyrical and anapestic.
Gene has performed his music in Europe, Asia, and the United States, both as leader of his own group and as a sideman. Gene lists Arthur Schopenhauer and Charlie Banacos as major influences in his art/music.
To this day, it is impossible to list all the outstanding musicians that Gene has worked with. Some of them are: Al Foster, Rashied Ali, Ravi Coltrane, Danilo Perez, Harvie S, Santi Debriano, Gene Jackson, Donny McCaslin, Mika Pohjola, Reggie Workman, Slide Hampton, Cindy Blackman, Archie Shepp, Eddie Henderson, Greg Tardy, David Binney, Yamashita Yosuke, and Carlos Santana.