Guymon Ensley GEQ Jazz



REVIEW From The Desk Of Billy Hamilton: last night's December edition of the Mayflower Music Series featured a packed house, a full parking lot, a lovely Christmas tree, and other tasteful decorations to celebrate the holiday season. It also featured, as it always does, a whole lot of great jazz! This month's musical entertainment was provided by the Guymon Ensley Quintet, an accomplished jazz ensemble that delivered a powerful performance in front of Detroit's very best musical audience.

There are many adjectives that I can (and will) use to describe the GEQ, but the term that defines them best is simply: "Astounding Musicianship." Leader and composer Guymon Ensley's trumpet and flugelhorn playing is characterized for me by a uniquely wonderful tone. His horn is never shrill, but somehow naturally mellow and muted (even without the use of a mute), so that his playing is impressive not only for its precision and melodic innovation, but also for its tonal appeal to the ear. Leader Ensley also embodies the old axiom "less is more" by showcasing his own talents less than most bandleaders do. He puts the spotlight on the other members of his group more than he puts it on himself, clearly enjoying the stellar playing of his band members just as much as we did.

Saxophonist Robert Reeves, the featured soloist, displayed his virtuosity on tenor, alto, and soprano sax as the group offered a variety of distinctly arranged covers and an equal number of very impressive GEQ originals. Ensley and Reeves paired their horns in some of the most intricate and challenging two-part work I have ever heard. Their effortless onstage communication and precise, flawless execution of mind-blowing sax-trumpet lines brought the audience to its collective feet more than once.

Keyboardist Phil Lesky and drummer Bang Glenn graced the MMS stage for the second consecutive month last night. They are clearly among the most sought after jazz players in the Detroit scene--and for good reason. Lesky's piano blends with and supports the other instruments unfailingly, and his solos are always alive and melodically inspired.

Drummer Bang Glenn demonstrated an admirable versatility from which many percussionists could take a lesson. Last month, as part of a band backing up a featured vocalist, he played with tremendous subtlety, providing the necessary quiet foundation and steady tempo without ever drawing attention to himself. This month, however, as a vital part of a five-piece instrumental ensemble, he was lively and incredibly dynamic, mixing subtlety with emphasis to light a fire under the band all evening long. Most importantly, he did what all drummers of every musical genre should strive to do--know and understand the musical structure of each piece from the viewpoint of the other musicians. Doing so enabled him essentially to "lead" the band into each transition, each change of timing and feeling at precisely the right split second. This kind of drumming is what makes a band as tight as it can be. Every other player must go where the drummer goes, from verse to verse and verse to chorus, and so on. They simply cannot do otherwise, and when the drummer musically "announces" every transition with the perfect timing and confidence displayed by Glenn, then everyone moves through the song completely together, playing as a unit. Glenn's ability drive the band in this way, even during the most musically complex and intricate segments of the music, made for incredible musical tightness.

The other half of the GEQ rhythm section, bassist Jabari Reynolds, simply knocked me out. In addition to his elegant smoothness and flawless synchronization with the drums throughout the show, Reynolds displayed a unique style that I want to describe as somehow "funky" in a jazz context. He is one of the rare bass players who can bring a kind of natural, inborn funk to every bass line. Even in a jazz format, he is able to do this without clashing in any way with the feeling of the tune. His style adds yet another element and level of musicianship to the GEQ material. He and the drummer pulled off one incredibly smooth segue after another, sometimes actually interspersing a funk-rock beat and walking bass line with soaring jazz figures. Their dynamics more than once drove the music from a barely audible sound to a crashing crescendo and back again, touching every listener with excitement. In the midst of all this incredible ensemble playing, Reynolds delivered several bass solos that simply took us into places heretofore unknown! He did it all with a joyful smile, living in the moment with each note and making us live there with him. What a bass player! And what a musical event the Mayflower Music Series is! It takes place on the first Saturday of every month at the Mayflower Church, 7301 Curtis Street in Detroit.

Michigan Institute Of Contemporary Art

"Although GEQ is new to the Lansing JazzFest, their energy and talent is surely one that exudes experience. Guymon Ensley formed this rare gem back in 2001 and sought to become a group of classic jazz, be-bop and nujazz. The energy of this group has been compared respectfully to the likes of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and the John Coltrane and Miles Davis ensembles."

Musical Director: WEMU 89.1, reviews GEQ's 2003 Ypsilanti Heritage Performance and New CD . . .

"I'd heard nothing but rave reviews about the GEQ, the (Guymon Ensley Quintet) from pianist Phil Lesky, so I decided to give this band a chance at WEMU's Blues and Jazz stage at the 2003 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival. This is one of the best chances I've ever taken as WEMU's Music Director. The crown in Ypsilanti raved about them and listeners are now calling and asking about the CD. The GEQ had folks singing along with straight-ahead jazz melodies (no mean feat!) The GEQ had folks patting their feet, nodding their heads, clapping their hands and shaking many other parts of their anatiomy. When Cornelious "Ju-Ju" Johnson took the microphone, he took listeners with him to new heights of screaming, passionalte delight. The GEQ has that "secret something" of great jazz ensembles. They play music of the highest artistic quality, yet they relate to the audience one-on-one, just like the greats such as Cannonball Adderley, Art Blakey, Duke Ellington and the Heath Brothers. The GEQ reminds you of the late great Detroit jazz musicians such as Pistol Allen, Beans Bowles and Teddy Harris-musicians who never compromised artistic integrity, yet entertained the listeners in the finest sense of the word. When I recievied their CD, I hoped that their studio work wouldn't come off as a pale imitation of their live performance. My fears were quickly assuaged. The disc is strong, swinging and every bit as vital as the GEQ live. I hope there are many discs to come and many more engagements coming from this first rate jazz ensemble. I'll be there at ther upcoming engagement at the Ford-Detroit International Jazz Festival. I would'nt miss this triumphant closer for the festival with this new gem of Detroit jazz in the Guymon Ensley Quintet."

GEQ's performance at the 2003 Idlewild Jazz Festival in Idlewild Michigan

"One of Detroit area's hottest bands for the last two years has been GEQ, the (Guymon Ensley Quintet). Ensley brings a strong trumpet presence to the table and is well supported by Cornelious "Ju-Ju" Johnson on sax, Kerry Lacy on bass, Alex Brooks on drums, and Phil Lesky on piano. The band specializes in the jazz classics, be-bop, and post-bop. They have a dynamic style and lots of energy. If you're looking for soft and mellow, you'll have to look elsewhere. [We do pretty much straight ahead jazz,] says Ensley. [But no smooth stuff,] he added quickly. Ensley demonstrated his bands attention to detail and there ability to faithfully deal with the classics without sacrificing their own style when he closed his set with a rendition a Duke Ellington's Take the A Train that left the crowd buzzing."

earBuzz Distribution Review of "Meet Guymon Ensley"

"Guymon Ensley has captured a space in time on his CD, "Meet Guymon Ensley". The Detroit jazz trumpeteer takes his tone (midway between a Herb Alpert effected sound and Mangione heart) and plays with palatable maturity. In the opening tune on this 4-track CD, "She's on Her Way" - Ensley takes a compelling yet breezy melody and gently rides the exemplary jazz back band to a very satisfying place. Track 2, "Grandma's Hand", is a group-play jazz wonder. The mp3 clip here of the tune is from the end of the tune - and the band is in that space - noodling and soothe-ling the listener to a frenzy. Ensley speeds it all up in track 3's, "Sonic n' C" - horn section and signature high frequency trumpet stabs fill the space while guitarist, Randal Wilson, throws a couple of out on the edge chromatic fun chops our way. The final track, "What a Funk Down", is a journey down a busy city subway on a cool misty night. The groove supports Ensley's improvisational abandon as he effortlessly flies from possessed soloist to pocket melodist. Wonderful stuff - great CD."

earBuzz Distribution Review of "Here Put This On"

"The Guymon Ensley Quintet CD, "Here. .put this On", is in the pocket advice for contemporary jazz fans. This CD smokes - and whether they are taking on Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" or Shorter's "Speak No Evil", they have put together a satisfying 9-track set of envelope pushing jazz standards. Dependable and exotic at times, Ensley's tones are terrific - but the highlight on this CD is the tone and kinetic psychosis found in sax man, Cornelius "Ju-Ju" Johnson's playing. Listen to the clip of "Ornightology" - Ensley paints a canvas gently with muted trumpet - for Ju-Ju to come in and throw paint around perfectly. .splat. Track 3 is more of the same - Ju-Ju to the rescue in the snow in, "Break; Due to Snow". .exciting stuff here. The odyssey of "Speak No Evil" is a thirteen minute walking groove jazz slice of nice. Pianist, Phillip Lesky, is the adult of the group and keeps the 'in the pocket' firmly against the breast. .just over the heart. The CD ends with a pumping rendition of 'Take the A Train', mp3'd here as an entire tune. .it's ominous and pure. Another wonderful CD from Ensley and his close musical comrades."

Bakers Keyboard Lounge

Guymon Ensley, trumpeter and bandleader, has brought a new sound to Baker's with his ensemble GEQ, characterized by a cool yet meaty style of Jazz that is most popular with our clientele

PR Web

Composer/Trumpeter Guymon Ensley Shares His New Single Entitled “Where Am I Going With You?” Through The Jazz Network Worldwide.

Straight out of the vault, comes a catalogue of classic material as well as the exciting new single.

Finner-Williams Association

The "TRIPLE THREAT" Band was excellent. Thank you for all that you do,

Hawaii @ the 2004 Festival at Sea Jazz Cruise

GEQ boarded the Norwegian Cruise Lines' "Pride Of Aloha" with one thing in mind . . . to leave the passengers spinin' and "well jazzed." And after hitting the islands of Honolulu, Kona, Hilo and Kahului, twice each in forteen days, the passengers aboard who knew what they were were listening to wanted more. The group laid out their best from their repertoire with the likes of Monk's "Well You Needn't and "Straight No Chaser," Wayne Shorter's "Pinocchio" and Bird's Ornithology. Of course the sounds of some of Guy's originals, "Dar Twas (Nancy)," "Knowbody Knows I'm Here," "Oh Yeah" and "Here Put This On" were hits as well. GEQ also belted out several numbers on the current CD, HERE PUT THIS ON . . . the special arrangements of "A Night In Tunisia" and "Take The A Train" were especially a hit. GEQ shared the bill with Frankie Beverly and Maze ad The Whispers.

the 2002 Festival At Sea Jazz Cruise To The Caribbean

GEQ was selected over all others in the U.S. to perform as a jazz "group," aboard the Carnival Cruise Ship "Destiny" for seven days in the Eastern Caribbean. While cruising the ports San Juan, Guadeloupe, Barbados and Trinidad, GEQ performed original Bebop style tunes from the pen of Guymon Ensley as well as Classic Jazz and Bebop arrangements of tunes by such legendary artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. GEQ shared the bill with Jeffery Osborne, Yolanda Adams and the Isley Brothers.