Gene Ess: A Thousand Summers

In a decided departure from his last outing, 2008’s Modes of Limited Transcendence, which exclusively featured his original postbop/fusion compositions, guitarist Gene Ess presents a fresh spin on the Great American Songbook. The star of this show is singer Nicki Parrott, also known as the longstanding bassist in the Les Paul Trio. She brings clear articulation, beautiful tone, a sense of rhythmic assuredness and a touch of allure to inventive arrangements of Rodgers and Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” Cole Porter’s “So in Love” and Michel Legrand’s haunting “I Will Wait for You.” There’s also a delicious version of Thelonious Monk’s “Reflections,” with Jon Hendricks’ lyrics, and a wonderful version of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye” done as a sprightly bossa nova. Backed by fine players including pianist James Weidman, Ess gets plenty of room to solo within each of these classic tunes, but it’s the charming Parrott who sells them.