Alexander Schmitz, Jazz Podium
That Gene Ess is Japanese, you can see especially on song titles such as “Sands of Time (Okinawa)”, “Tokyo Red”, and “Fireflies of Hiroshima” three out of eight of his compositions on the fourth album of his quintet Fractal Attraction. Otherwise, the New Yorker of choice since 1991, a cosmopolitan qua Bio, born in Tokyo and grew up on the US Air Force base on Okinawa, where he first learned to master the European classics on the piano, before the music in the military Clubs moved to jazz so violently that the Berklee graduate became a sought-after companion of such greats as Rashied Ali, Archie Shepp, Ravi Coltrane, or Reggie Workman. It is not surprising that his jazz locates exotic and puzzling things in his moving bio. but the cause is easier to make out: the art of the Croatian-American vocalist Thana Alexa, who each of these is the rough-voiced and gentle band of the songs: Sebastian Ammann, piano, Yasushi Nakamura, bass, and Clarence Penn, drums , and just eating (LOL!?). Ammann’s left hand is gilded, Nakamura is competing on E and Grobbass himself, he and Penn are instrumental in making the quintet the cooking studio. And Ess masters his voice as masterfully as Thana Alexa controls her voice. He does not often distort, of course, in the obligatory, “tokyo Red” funk to Nakamamura’s stylish electric bass. Otherwise there is jazz-guitarist sound. The point is that Ess the singer has no 08/15-Vocalesen aufhalst. Unisoni are kept short, and in their place Alexa provides a second voice for the core of the originality already in Kraftstrotz opener “The Return” in “Sands of Time” she sounds like a self-absorbed vocal group she is scared of the soul , In “Same Sky” with Ess on the acoustic flattop she sings to kneel down. The clarity of her voice in really every situation is enthralling. “Bluesbird” is a showstopper a la Four Brothers, in which Nakamura shines. This is Straight Ahead, with flying flags and imposing singlelines. No one here does half, only whole things, and Alexa rises to her artistic zenith. Anyhow, “Fireflies for Hiroshima” might be something for Doris Dorries’ Japan-film, until Alexa switches to jazz mode and a feltly endless superchord burns the glowworms in old scars. Then “Day for Night” with vocal (and never hollow!) Dining artistry in Post-hardbop-articulation and noble Archtop sound. And finally, “Two World”, from A to Z, through-vocalized, played through: once again immaculate modern jazz that truly deserves this pradicate: timeless.
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