MARC CARY "Focus" Motema MARC CARY/SHON "CHANCE" MILLER "Abstrakt Blak" Motema
"FOCUS" MAY BE THE TITLE of pianist Marc Cary's new jazz trio album, but as that CD and the reissue of the audacious, genre-blending "Abstrakt Blak" illustrate, his artistic vision borders on the panoramic.
Chalk it up to Cary's multifaceted background. A Duke Ellington School of the Arts alum, he grew up immersed in the Washington go-go scene and was later tutored by such jazz luminaries as Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Jackie McLean.
Fittingly, "Focus" opens with a tribute to McLean, a rhythmically probing and cleverly segmented arrangement of the late saxophonist's charging bop theme "Appointment in Ghana." From there, Cary moves to a series of original pieces that reveal his gifts for composing, improvising and engaging in sophisticated interplay with bassist David Ewell and drummer-percussionist Sameer Gupta. Highlights include the rippling, Ahmad Jamal-esque "Walk With Me," the gospel-tinged ballad "So Gracefully" and the atmospheric, tablas-accented excursion "A Long Walk Home." Gupta contributes another standout, the brush-stroked meditation "Taiwa."
Commissioned by the Studio Museum in Harlem and featuring MC-producer Shon "Chance" Miller, "Abstrakt Blak" is billed as the "soundtrack to the New Harlem Renaissance." It's awash with hip-hop, go-go, funk and Caribbean beats, along with ambient textures, bop-flavored harmonies and spoken-word performances. Sonically enhanced, the reissue boasts a video and two bonus tracks, including the inspirational, space-funk coda "Back in the Pocket Again."
-- Mike Joyce
Marc Carey and the Focus Trio appears Monday at Blues Alley.