Jesse Gress, a renowned guitarist and music educator, passed away at his home in Woodstock, New York on February 21, 2023. He was born January 9, 1956, in Bethlehem, PA.
Professionally, Jesse was both a phenomenally gifted performer on stage and in the studio, and an accomplished author and music educator. From an early age, he became enamored with the sound of the guitar, obtaining his first guitar at the age of 13. His early influences included Herb Albert, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Todd Rundgren. Little did he know that he was destined much later to join Todd on stage as his guitar sideman.
As a young adult, he attended The Guitar Technical Institute in Los Angeles, now known as the Musician’s Institute College of Contemporary Music, a school founded on the principle that musicians should teach and learn from other musicians. There he studied with his mentor Howard Roberts, along with Tommy Tedesco and Pat Hicks. Eventually he would join Todd Rundgren’s band with fellow musicians Kasim Sulton, Prairie Prince, Greg Hawkes, Bobby Strickland and John Ferenzik. He also played with many other noted musicians, including the Tony Levin Band and drummer Jerry Marotta’s "Reelin in the Years." As a recording artist, he contributed to many of Todd’s albums and three albums with Tony Levin, including "Pieces of the Sun," which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Progressive Rock Instrumental. Jesse also served as the Music Director for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Album Tribute, "It Was 40 Years Ago Today," which included Todd Rundgren, Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Bo Bice, Christopher Cross, and Denny Laine.
He was a regular contributor to several magazines, including Guitar Player Magazine, Guitar World, Guitar School, and Guitar for the Practicing Musician, where he contributed hundreds of articles. He also authored five reference books titled "Guitar Licks of the Texas Blues-Rock Heroes", "Guitar Revolution - Lessons from the Groundbreakers & Innovators", "Guitar Lick Factory", "Guitar Licks of the Brit-Rock Heroes", and the outstanding "The Guitar Cookbook".
As early as 1986, Jesse was applying his extensive knowledge of the guitar in the form of hundreds of transcription folios. He was admired for his rare ability to accurately transcribe recorded performances. One of his regular themes was "You’re Playing it Wrong," where he would choose a popular recorded performance and analyze the technique, timing, and chords in great detail for those desiring to replicate the original, citing the common errors often made, guiding the reader to a deeper understanding of the song, including its origins and history. These portfolios, published by Hal Leonard, Cherry Lane Music, Music Sales, and Warner Brothers Publications, included most of The Beatles and Stevie Ray Vaughan catalogs, as well as key recordings by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Guns N' Roses.
Jesse was a passionate musician and writer, yet he also pursued other interests. In addition to his musical and writing pursuits, he had an enthusiasm for food with a real flair for cooking. He
collected guitars, musical instruments, amplifiers, and effects pedals, as well as rare recordings, books, and all things Tiki. His knowledge of these pursuits was vast, and he enjoyed sharing it
with others. Those who knew Jesse will remember him as a kind and generous person who always had a story to tell or a joke to share.
Jesse is survived by his loving wife of thirty-one years, Mary Lou Arnold-Gress of Woodstock, NY, stepdaughter Deidre Kelly and her husband Steve Kelly of St. Petersburg, Florida, sister, Carol Bauer of Weitingen, Switzerland, and brother, Frank Gress of Manassas, Virginia. Donations in Jesse’s name may be made to either of two charities:
Todd Rundgren’s Spirit of Harmony Foundation - providing support of music and music
education by visiting spiritofharmony.org
Max’s Kansas City Project, serving the arts youth community by visiting Max’s Kansas
City.org. or by mail to: https://maxskansascity.org/. or PO Box 4431 Kingston, NY
Please be sure to notify either of them that you are contributing in memory of Jesse Gress. You may share a special memory, photo, or condolence with the family on Jesse's Tribute Wall at www.gormleyfuneralhome.com Arrangements under the direction of the E. B. Gormley Funeral Home 87 main St. Phoenicia.
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