Street Date - September 26, 2016
CD Release Party
September 25th - Blue Note NYC
For Gene, a serious musical journey is always undertaken against the backdrop of the theater of the absurd, whether the musician knows it or not; in it, the quest for meaning is replaced by contentment in the artistic pursuit of beauty.
Gene Ess is a philosopher. While most philosophers expound their thoughts with the written word, Gene Ess delineates his thinking in the most sublime of the art forms, music. Gene’s previous release, Eternal Monomyth (©SIMProductions, 2015), was a musical exploration of the hero’s quest proposed by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.
Now, in Absurdist Theater, Gene navigates the absence of meaning and hope. The idea of absurdism may be rooted in Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer, but it is Albert Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus that best incarnates the encounter with “nothingness.” With a protagonist eternally doomed to senselessness and facing the choice of escaping existence, leap of faith, or recognition, Camus “imagines Sisyphus happy,” finding clarity in contentment. In the absence of meaning, absurdism teaches freedom. As Nikos Kazantzakis’ epitaph read, “I have no hope. I have no fear. I am free.”
For Gene, a serious musical journey is always undertaken against the backdrop of the theater of the absurd, whether the musician knows it or not; in it, the quest for meaning is replaced by contentment in the artistic pursuit of beauty. In the tradition of aesthetics, the profound power of beauty saves us from our own despair. In the Japanese bushido way, the pursuit for unattainable beauty and perfection brings balance to life.
Seeking his own expression of beauty, Gene was joined by kindred hearts and minds. He says, “A great team of musicians came through for the music. I think in this third record together, this is the best work for Thana Alexa and me as Fractal Attraction’s frontline. Our collaboration has grown tighter over the years, as she has gotten to know my music.Cuban pianist, Manuel Valera did a great job. It was my first time working with him. Yasushi Nakamura is one of the best bass players I’ve heard. And of course, Clarence Penn is one of the best drummers in the international jazz scene.”
By Travis Rogers
What they have created together, in their own musical heroes’ quest, is a work of sincere expression. The individual movements are magnificent, this is a coherent and wonderful Jazz Opera. Just wonderful.
• Out of the Ashes: the first sound in the album is Thana Alexa’s voice. Gene’s guitar is the sound of resurrection soaring from destruction as Manuel Valera’s piano speaks of reconstruction. It is the rapprochement with life in the absence of meaning.
• Circe's Compassion: Circe, the devastatingly beautiful goddess-enchantress, eventually helps Odysseus after her defeat to him. It is the compassion of friends and foes that guides Odysseus through his journey.
• Jade Stones: Jade, the “blessing stone,” offers benefits to whatever it touches. It has been used as a sacrifice to nature gods and even carved into musical instruments. Jade also symbolizes the wisdom gathered from a peaceful life, allowing us to see ourselves as we really are.
• Kunai: Originally, kunai were farming tools that were soon transformed into weapons. It is most known as weapon of choice for the Japanese Ninjas and Shinobis. A defensive weapon rather than offensive, here the music defends the musicians moving forward into the Gate.
• Torii: A torii is a traditional gate into a Shinto shrine, the portal from to the sacred from the profane. Passing through the torii, however, does not change the view, as it is an open archway, making the difference between the spiritual and the material worlds at best an illusion and, at worst, a lie.
• Forkball (for Ornette): A marvelous elegy and tribute to the life and work of Ornette Coleman, who may have understood these things better than any of us.
• Déjala Que Pase: As a product of Gene spending extended periods in Spain, more recently in San Jose, he has fallen under the influence of Spanish music. Let things pass. It is the moment of realization, no longer looking for an answer.
• Upward and Onward!: After recognition, Gene forsakes the options of escaping existence and leap of faith. Instead, in the most amazing choice of all, he chooses beauty. This is Aristotle’s ascent.
Hope and meaning may be beyond our reach. Stop and hear Gene, Thana, Manuel, Yasushi, and Clarence, making absurdity lose its sting to the sheer joy of beautiful music.
Track Names and Times and Composer:
1. Out of the Ashes 9:45 Gene Ess
2. Circe’s Compassion 8:35 Gene Ess
3. Jade Stones 5:52 music by Gene Ess, lyrics by Thana Alexa
4. Kunai 5:49 Gene Ess
5. Torii (The Gate) 8:58 Gene Ess
6. Forkball 5:03 Gene Ess
7. Déjala Que Pase 6:37 music Gene Ess, lyrics Thana Alexa
8. Upward and Onward! 8:43 Gene Ess
Gene Ess - guitar, synth, compositions
Thana Alexa - voice, lyrics
Manuel Valera - piano, keyboards
Yasushi Nakamura - acoustic and electric bass
Clarence Penn - drums
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