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Award winning guitarist, Gene Ess, draws upon a diverse background to form his unique style. Studying classical piano, Gene’s early years were filled with sounds of Beethoven and Chopin. Originally from Tokyo, Japan and growing up on a U.S. Air Force Base on Okinawa, Gene was simultaneously receiving a mix of influences: he was exposed to the indigenous music of Okinawa and - to the pop and jazz music coming out of the clubs for the American soldiers. All this amounted for an early obsession with music

Gene performed in clubs and festivals all around Okinawa at the early age of 14. After graduating high school Gene left for George Mason University. There, he pursued classical music studies with Larry Snitzler, a prominent concert guitarist who was Andrés Segovia’s disciple and orchestral composition under Dr. Glenn Smith.

Downbeat magazine presented Gene’s performance of Lennox Berkeley’s ‘Theme and Variations’ with the ‘Outstanding Performance Award’ in 1983. Consequently, Gene received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. There he continued his musical quest and was heavily influenced by the music of John Coltrane. After studies with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos, Gene graduated from Berklee with honors in 1990 and moved to New York in 1991.

Through the 1990’s Gene recorded and toured globally with the prolific drummer Rashied Ali (known for his association with saxophonist John Coltrane). In 2002, The Rashied Ali Quintet released “No One In Particular,” which was co-produced by Gene and well received by critics. 

Gene’s last album Eternal Monomyth was released in May of 2015. The album has received international acclaim and also charted on the national jazz radio chart peaking at #7. The quintet includes some of the best NYC jazz musicians and include: Thana Alexa on voice, John Escreet on piano, Thomson Kneeland on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums. This album received the prestigious “Outstanding Jazz Performance” Award from SESAC in 2016.

The new album, Absurdist Theater, is slated to be released September, 2016. This set of new music continues Gene’s exploration using voice as an instrument in a chamber group setting.  On this album, Gene is joined by Thana Alexa on voice, Manuel Valera on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums.

Over his career, Gene has performed and recorded with many wonderful musicians. Some are: Dave Liebman, Al Foster, Rashied Ali, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Carlos Santana, Archie Shepp, Reggie Workman, Tigran Hamasyan, and Ravi Coltrane. 

“Alexa’s combination of sparkling artistry and unerring confidence make her far more than just another rookie with a debut album.” - DOWNBEAT

"...a jazz singer with a global perspective..." - THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Ode to Heroes demonstrates an artist who is thinking so far out of the box that she bends space-time." - ALL ABOUT JAZZ

“Her voice is enthralling, her compositions are heart-warming and her arrangements are
heart-stopping.” - JAZZTIMES

2016 Downbeat Critic’s Poll Rising Female Vocalist, runner up in the 2014 Made in NY Jazz Competition, winner of the 2011 Jazzon Alpe-Adria International Competition and nominee in the category of Best Jazz Composition for the 2011 PORIN Awards - the Croatian Music Academy’s honor equivalent to the Grammy Awards in America. Thana Alexa released her Harmonia Mundi Jazz Village debut in March 2015, an album of original compositions and vocal arrangements, which bring together elements of jazz, pop and world music. The album mainly features her engaging original compositions, along with vibrant takes on jazz standards like Shorter’s “Footprints,” Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” and Desmond and Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5.” Most importantly, it spotlights Alexa’s ability to engage in rewarding and illuminating musical conversation with some of the music’s most renowned and forward-thinking players.

Alexa is an active member of Antonio Sanchez' touring ensemble Migration (Grammy winner for the Birdman film score as well as Pat Metheny’s longtime drummer) and has recorded two critically acclaimed albums with the group (New Life and The Meridian Suite). Alexa also appears on two of guitarist Gene Ess's albums (Fractal Attraction and Eternal Monomyth). Both records - for which Alexa contributed vocals, compositions and lyrics - won the SESAC Jazz Award in 2015 and 2016. The group will be releasing their third album (Absurdist Theater) in August 2016.

Thana is a graduate of the New School University where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jazz and Contemporary Music and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Although born in New York City, Thana grew up in Croatia - her family's country of origin - where she was mentored for many years by vibraphonist and club owner, Bosko Petrovic.