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New Release From Guitarist Gene Ess, Ah-Bop

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SIMP Records announces Ah-Bop, the latest album from guitarist Gene Ess, and his first for four years, due out on October 7, 2022.

Ess is joined by two of New York’s finest instrumentalists – bassist Scott Colley and drummer Clarence Penn – for an inquisitive journey through the classic guitar trio format that takes in an eclectic variety of genres and forms along the way.

Originally hailing from Okinawa, Japan, Ess is no stranger to the limelight, as a former member of the Rashied Ali Quintet who has played alongside luminaries like Ravi Coltrane, Eddie Henderson, Carlos Santana, and Archie Shepp. On his previous album, Apotheosis, Ess’s band Fractal Attraction was described by Jazz Times’ Dan Bilawsky as “a unit of remarkable means and resilience.”

Ah-Bop, due out on October 7, 2022.

It’s been four years since Ess closed that cycle of albums, all released on the SIMP label. He returns with Ah-Bop – a refreshed appearance that treads new ground, marking the first time Ess has approached the guitar-bass-drums lineup that’s been tackled with so much variety by some of Ess’ favorite guitar players through history: John McLaughlin, Jim Hall, and Pat Martino to name a few. It’s been a musical itch Ess has been determined to scratch for a long time, a kind of musical apotheosis to follow his last album of the same name. “To me, the trio is a huge challenge, as the guitar is completely naked in the sonic landscape,” says Ess. “It’s harder for me than solo or duets, as the nature of the guitar makes it very difficult, so I was pushed by the challenge.”

All the tracks were composed as Ess waited in Tokyo until he could return to New York during the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. When he did eventually make it back to the US, he enlisted two of NY’s biggest hitters – Scott Colley on bass, alongside drummer Clarence Penn – to realize his vision. “Scott was the bassist on my first European tour with Tony Moreno and Ravi Coltrane in the mid-90s”, Ess elaborates. “He’s an amazing musician and a fantastic reader.” Meanwhile, Penn joins up with Ess following his work with the Fractal Attraction band. “Clarence brings his amazing sense of swing and this lightness of rhythm. He’s kind of like an orchestra in the background with quiet moments and explosive sections.”

Ess describes the whole album as a kind of jazz song cycle, a form from the world of Western classical art music popularized by Schubert that sees smaller pieces linked together by a thread of motives, rhythms and keys. The album begins with title track “Ah-Bop”, a piece dedicated to the great British jazz fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth, a key influence for a host of guitarists across rock, metal and jazz.


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