Marc Cary – Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 (2015)

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When Marc Cary issued Rhodes Ahead Vol. 1 early into his career as a leader, it set him on a path that saw this jazz pianist and composer unafraid to go down vistas of music that may or may not be “jazz,” and played with keyboards that may or may not be electronic. Cary’s effectively found his own voice by blurring the lines.

Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 (arriving March 17, 2015 through Motéma Music) brings him back to that starting point armed with the artistic development that he picked up during this fifteen year journey. This time, Rhodes Ahead isn’t a diversion but rather close to the center of what he is as a musician.

Rhodes Ahead is also a band, a combination of two of Cary’s trios that makes the right combination of players that he’s looking for when he wants to go all in with being plugged in. Cary is primarily backed by Taurus Mateen on basses, Terreon “Tank” Gully on drums and Sameer Gupta on tabla. Cary himself plays the Fender Rhodes, natch, but also a utility synthesizer called an Access Virus and a little bit of organ. But the Rhodes is the featured instrument for Vol 2 as it was for Vol 1 and Cary aptly describes why this instrument has a special spot in his music:

I give thanks to the mighty Miles Davis, for introducing quite a few great masters to the Fender Rhodes. I use a fender Rhodes 73 suitcase, kept in its original mint condition by the only Miles protégé, trumpeter Wallace Roney. Wallace has been a huge inspiration and support at various key points in my career, and generously bestowed this Rhodes to me when he realized how driven I was to revisit this project. So although this new album is dedicated to the Fender Rhodes, it is also symbolic of the many roads that one can choose as a trajectory for one’s journey.

Last month we let slip an advance track from the new record, a dreamy groove number called “Astral Flight 17.” The rest of album follows some of same patterns established there, using mostly simple riffs, complex rhythms and layers of moods that’s collectively both ambient and tense.

After a brief intro “Prelude To The Hit”, Cary & Co. jump right into an old tune by post-bop piano legend Howard Mabern. “Beehive” in this quartet’s hands pays homage to Lee Morgan’s interpretation, but it also gets a Headhunters “Actual Proof” treatment, especially with an elastic bass line that Paul Jackson could have authored. Cary also takes on Alan Palmer’s “You Can’t Stop Us Now,” a straight up funk number, with the Rhodes, Access Virus and organ all leading on the theme.

The remaining tracks — including “Astral Flight 17,” — are Cary’s compositions or co-writes. Two of these are influenced by traditional African music forms; North African, that is. “Essaouira Walks” operates from an ostinato running on a 5/4 signature; the Rhodes and the Access Virus compete for lead time, set against astral synth backwash. On “Spices And Mystics,” Gully’s drum n bass brings the spice while Aran Ramamurthy’s exotic violin adds to the mysticism, accentuated by Igmar Thomas’ echoing trumpet. The sub-Saharan motif of “African Market” is another odd metered song, based on a two chord vamp and features the extra bass of Burnisss ‘Earl’ Travis II.

The smooth R&B vibe of “7th Avenue North” draws its inspiration from much closer to home, like an Isley Brothers slow jam and yet, Gupta’s tabla seems right at home in it. Sharif Simmons recites his poetry over “The Alchemist’s Notes,” as Cary’s band stays loose and free, seemingly responsive to the prose.

Ultimately, Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 isn’t about the Fender Rhodes as an ends onto itself, but a means by which Marc Cary realizes his kaleidoscopic concept of music on multiple planes.

Visit Marc Cary’s website for further details.

Catch Marc Cary on tour at these dates and places:

March 7 / Jazz Winterfest (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / San Jose, CA
March 13 / Theatre Victor Hugo (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / Bagneux, France
March 14 / tbd (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / Nice, France
March 15 / LantarenVenster (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / Rotterdam, Neth.
March 17 /Le Cheval Blanc (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / Schiltingheim, France
March 18 / Fasching (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / Stockholm, Sweden
March 21 / tbd (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / Bari, Italy
April 10-11 / Bohemian Cavern (RAV2 Launch) / Washington, DC
April 24 / Art Of Cool Festival (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / Durham, NC
April 25 / Sidedoor (RAV2 Launch) / Old Lyme, CT
May 9 / Kennedy Center “Harlem Nights, U Street Lights” / Washington, DC
May 10 / Apollo Theatre “Harlem Nights, U Street Lights” / New York, NY
May 23 / Jazz In The Round (Focus Trio presents RAV2) / London, England

feature photo by Tim Dickeson

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