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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Friday, September 23, 2016

CD Review: Gene Ess - Absurdist Theatre

Gene Ess (Guitar), Thana Alexa (Voice), Manuel Valera (Piano), Yasushi Nakamura (Bass), Clarence Penn (Drums).
(Review by Steve T)
Another strong album but when do we get to see them live at a Jazz Café or Globe near us [northeast UK]? Because that's the only market I can envisage for it, and, if they're as good live, I'm sure they'd shift loads.*
Having said that, the internet, social media, streaming, downloading; all these things are something of a mystery to me so maybe there's a marketplace I'm not privy to.
Gene Ess, originally from Tokyo, grew up in America and has lived in New York since 1991. He studied classical piano, listened to Beethoven and Chopin and then American pop and Jazz, particularly John Coltrane. He's also made an incredible list of guest spots including Dave Liebman, Al Foster, Rashied Ali, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Carlos Santana, Archie Shepp, Reggie Workman and Ravi Coltrane. 
It's another guitar album but, presumably, in the pursuit of variety, he shares the lead with the lady with the voice Thana Alexa. I'm also tempted to add pianist Manuel Valera to the list. In fact, the musicianship from all concerned is exemplary throughout. I say the voice rather than the singer because the album features only two songs and the rest of the time she's ad-libbing, trilling, scatting, la-la-la-ing and I realised she's using it as a musical instrument, and she has a fine voice.
However, unaccustomed as I am to lots of singing with very little in the way of discernible melodies and lyrics, I found myself losing interest a little as I progressed further through the album, though another song popped up just in time. I imagine any aspiring female vocalists, and we have several in the North East, will find it of great interest.
The album, his latest, is titled Absurdist Theater reflecting his interest in Absurdist philosophy, closely affiliated with existentialism and poststructuralism, which negates the idea of any underlying meaning, truth or structure. He claims the quest for meaning is replaced by contentment in the artistic pursuit of beauty which could account for the lack of any meaning inherent in music with lyrics, while some might argue that beauty in itself is not devoid of meaning.
I would have probably preferred a little more absurdity and rather less structure, but it's a fine, worthwhile album none the less.
Slated to be released September 2016.
Steve T.
*Street Date - September 26, 2016
CD Release Party
September 25th - Blue Note NYC
11:30 am Show & 1:30pm Show (Brunch)
Tix: $35.00 (price includes brunch, music, drink)


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