MARC CARY "Focus" Motema MARC CARY/SHON "CHANCE" MILLER "Abstrakt Blak" Motema

Friday, January 26, 2007

"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.

Listen to an audio clip of Marc Cary

Listen to an audio clip of Marc Cary/Shon "Chance" Miller

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