Label: SIMP Records
Musicians: Gene Ess - guitar; James Weidman - piano; Thomas Kneeland - bass; Gene Jackson - drums; Nicki Parrott - vocals.
Dwelling a little on serendipity and goal certitude, reveals how a performance by Ess at the Blue Note in NYC with a singer, triggered a shift in creative trajectory from his general penchant for featuring his instrumental compositions, to "an album from me that includes a singer" (Ess). In this case, not just any singer, but a veteran of the NYC Jazz scene; an accomplished musician who had worked with iconic guitarist Les Paul, and who also, as Ess says, "plays a mean bass and I needed a singer that can nail it in one or two takes in real time." The featured vocalist: Nicki Parrott.
There is another side to this CD that cannot be overlooked or dismissed. The tunes selected by Ess are, in his words: "timeless and some of the most beautiful melodies I know." He has opened the songbooks of renowned writers: Rogers and Hart; Cole Porter; Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer; Gordon Jenkins; Michel Legrand and jazz composers Thelonious Monk, Nat Adderley and Joe Sample.
|L - R: Thomson Kneeland - bass;|
Gene Jackson - drums;
Nicki Parrott - vocal;
Gene Ess - guitar;
James Weidman - piano.
A definite highlight of the CD plays out in the differing arranging styles of Gene Ess and bassist Thomson Kneeland that color the music's emotional character. Each arranged five tunes. Two of Kneeland's arrangements are standouts, Cole Porter's (So In Love) and Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer's (Charade), and seem to represent expressions of a vibrant arranging personality in the harmonies and changing tempi, with attendant complexities, quirks and changes heard in the angularity and jaggedness from Ess's guitar and Jackson's drums; but there is rationality at the core in Parrott's always clear interpretation of the lyric. Another aspect of Kneeland's arranging forte is unveiled in the way the rhythm section works together (Looking Back (Reflections)), with a brooding Ess guitar, Kneeland's slightly dark bass line, and James Weidman's searching piano; Gordon Jenkins' (Goodbye) lays itself out, lilting but sad, retrospective, resigned, entirely felt in Parrott's tender yielding to the ensemble's cool energy.
Ess's arrangements are more melodic, with space for distinct harmonies, pronounced swing and less angularity (One Day I'll Fly Away). Jazz composer Nat Adderley's (The Old Country) is usually offered as a bitter-sweet lament, but Ess shows sparkling creativity with a swinging upbeat arrangement with lots of real estate for a fine James Weidman extended piano solo, impeccable brush work from Gene Jackson, and Nicki Parrott nailing it every time, first time, as Jackson's drums and Ess's guitar engage in one of their rhythmic reminiscences that go all the way back to 1995. (All Or Nothing At All) emerges as one of Ess's most varied and complex arrangements, with its dark guitar intro that leads into a swinging Parrott vocal, driven by hard bop rhythms, punctuated by two daring, off-the-floor improvisational solos, first by Ess on guitar, and then by pianist James Weidman that morph into Ess's initial dark guitar chords to end the tune. (East Of The Sun) is organized for Ess's guitar, Weidman's piano, Kneeland's bass, Jackson's drums and Parrott's reading of the lyric to knit together some of the most bopish textures of the date.
Gene Ess ends "A Thousand Summers" with a virtuosic guitar performance (a la Julian Bream,) accompanying the sultry voice of Nicki Parrott on Michel Legrand's nostalgic and classic song from the French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. A perfect frame for a date that contained a thousand pleasures.
Track Listing: I Didn't Know What Time It Was; One Day I'll Fly Away; So In Love; The Old Country; Charade; East Of The Sun; Looking Back (Reflections); All Or Nothing At All; Goodbye; I Will Wait For You.
Produced by Gene Ess
Recording Engineer: Jim Clouse
Recorded at ParkWest Studio, Brooklyn, NYC
Mixed by Jim Clouse and Gene Ess
Mastering Engineer: Gene Ess
Mastered at Garbanzo II Studio Queens, NYC
Executive Producer: Gene Ess
Album dedicated to Ryo
607 Onderdonk Avenue, Suite 1
Ridgewood, NY 11385