Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Ess, Gene (Gene Ichita Shimosato)
Ess, Gene [Gene Ichita Shimosato], guitarist, composer, producer, teacher; b. Taipei, Taiwan, 31 July 1965. Moved to Tokyo, Japan at less than 1 year of age. Grew up on a U.S. Air Force base on Okinawa, Japan. Moved to Virginia, U.S. at 17 years of age. Attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. (1984-1989). Moved to New York City, NY 1991 - current. Became citizen of United States, March 24, 2000. Mother, Kazuko Shimosato (b. 1936) resides in Okinawa, Japan. She is a classical piano instructor. Gene has 2 younger brothers, Kenji Shimosato (b. July 4, 1968) and Kohta Shimosato (b. January 4, 1975). Gene is married to Julia Saiz-Shimosato (b. November 8, 1969) and currently resides in the East Village, NYC.
Ess brings his award-winning musicianship from a very diverse background. He grew up playing the classical piano, due to his mother being a classical pianist and a well known piano instructor on the island of Okinawa; his early years were filled with the classical sounds of Beethoven and Chopin. Simultaneously, Gene was receiving a mix of influences: he was exposed to the indigenous music of the island, and -growing up in a US Air Force Base- 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 all around Okinawa at the age of 14, and was considered a child prodigy by musicians and by his music instructors. Not satisfied, Gene left to George Mason University, where he pursued classical music studies, after high school graduation. There he studied with Larry Snitzler, a prominent concert guitarist who was once Andres Segovia's disciple. Gene also began studying orchestral composition under Dr. Glenn Smith.
Gene received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he continued his musical quest and was heavily influenced by the music of John Coltrane. During those years, Gene continued performing and started leading his own bands that included, among others, pianist Danilo Perez. After studies with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos, Gene graduated from Berklee with honors in 1989 and moved to New York in 1991.
Moving to New York in 1991 proved fruitful. Gene's first 'gig' in New York was at Condon's. In the band, together with Gene, were Rashied Ali, Reggie Workman, Eddie Henderson, Antoine Roney, and Sonelius Smith. Gene's collaboration with Rashied Ali has continued to this day. Gene has performed his music in Europe, Asia, and the United States, both as leader of his own group and as a sideman. Some of the musicians he has performed with are Carlos Santana, Rashied Ali, Ravi Coltrane, Danilo Perez, Ray Appleton, Santi Debriano, Gene Jackson, Al Foster, Harvie S, Reggie Workman, Slide Hampton, Greg Tardy, Archie Shepp, Eddie Henderson, Kenny Davis, and Yamashita Yosuke.
GSQ (unissued, recorded 1992); Prayer for September (1995); Sunrise Falling (2003)
Bob Malone: First Flash of Success (1988); Rashied Ali: No One In Particular (2001)
Spotlight Feature. Guitar Player Magazine. January, 1991.
Auditions Feature. Downbeat Magazine. December, 1990.
Four Star review, Prayer for September CD. Jazz Life Magazine. November, 1995.
Four Star review, Prayer for September CD. Swing Journal Magazine. October, 1995.
Finalist, Reader's Soundpage Competition. Guitar Player Magazine. July, 1989.
Jim Hall Award, Berklee College of Music. 1988 and 1987.
Downbeat Outstanding Classical Soloist Award. Downbeat Magazine, June, 1985 for Gene's performance of Lennox Berkeley's 'Theme and Variations'
Long interview at www.allaboutjazz.com/iviews/gshimosato.htm (2002)