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Issue 1084

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Review

Marc Cary: Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 (Motema Music/Membran)

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UK release date 09.03.2015

Rising star keyboardist Marc Cary revisits the electric and eclectic concept of his ground-breaking 1999 album, âRhodes Ahead Vol. 1,â with his latest, aptly titled Vol. 2.
As the âRhodesâ part of the title implies, it is fusion orientated, but with a very contemporary slant. The Grammy-nominated composer, arranger, producer and musician brings drum 'N' bass, jazz, funk, world music, âGo-Go and hip-hop influences to the table for this impressive follow-up, some 16 years later.

The multi-grooved Caryâs dossier includes work with a pantheon of jazz legends, among them Dizzy Gillespie, Art Taylor, Betty Carter, Roy Hargrove, Carmen McRae, and a notable 12-year stint with Abbey Lincoln. Cary is also comfortable in electronic, ambient, and hip-hop surroundings, and has worked on high profile projects with Q-Tip and members of Wu-Tang Clan and alternative rocker Ani DiFranco. Many of those influences were brought out on Rhodes Ahead, Vol. 1, which contributed directly to Cary winning the Best New Artist award at the first annual Billboard/BET On Jazz Conference in Washington, DC, June 2000.

With its sly allusion to the ubiquitous Fender Rhodes electric piano, the former drummer and trumpeter incorporated elements of drum nâ bass, electronic funk and R&B, house, Afro-Cuban, ethnic, and the âgo-goâ music of his teenage bands in Washington, DC. The result was a savvy, exotic mix that crossed rhythmic bridges between generations, much as his idol Miles Davis had done when he met Fillmore rock audiences head-on three decades earlier.

"Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2." brings Caryâs vision forward into the heart of todayâs urban-centric and digital environment. Yet two traditional Moroccan-inspired tracks, âEssaouira Walksâ and âSpices and Mysticsâ percolate with the dense African outcroppings that devoted fans of one of Caryâs other projects, Indigenous People, have come to expect. To the albumâs core trio of Cary (on Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 and programming) reuniting with Rhodes Aheadâs co-originators Terreon Gullyâs drums and bassist Taurus Mateen. âSpices and Mysticsâ adds trumpet (frequent collaborator Igmar Thomas), violin (Arun Ramamurthy), guitar (Aurelian Budynek), and percussion (Daniel Moreno).

With the exception of âYou Canât Stop Us Nowâ and pianist Harold Mabernâs âBeehiveâ (in which Thomas revisits the original acid jazz classic by trumpeter Lee Morgan), all of the compositions on Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 are Caryâs. Tabla player Sameer Gupta (Caryâs long time cohort from his popular Focus Trio) is co-writer of the steamy, sub-tropical âBelow the Equatorâ; and Sharif Simmonsâ recitation evokes the legacy of the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron on his original âThe Alchemist,â whose verses are transcribed as the closing track of Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2.

The multi-ethnic threads of Caryâs music also encompass Native American repertoire. His mother grew up fighting in the American Indian Movement â the AIM. Born in New York City in 1967, Cary grew up in Washington, DC in the turbulence of the 1970s and â80s. But his was a musical household. He was playing drums when he started his first bnd at 12; when a better drummer showed up, Cary switched to trumpet. He was in a social rehab program for troubled teens when he auditioned for and was accepted to the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the professional spawning ground for Dave Chappelle, Wallace Roney, Denyce Graves, and Meshell Ndegeocello, who Cary jammed with in the schoolâs orchestra.

Caryâs attraction to the Fender Rhodes happened at Ellington and crystallized at a benefit concert, where Don Cherry was playing with Nana Vasconcelos and Cary was playing solo at the keyboard. A group called the Front Line Jazz Ensemble heard him, and asked him to join, which became a springboard into DCâs bustling jazz and neo-soul scene.

In 1989 Cary had hooked up with Betty Carter, and made his first European tour as a working jazz musician. From there it was on to Roy Hargrove, where Caryâs name appeared in the credits on a succession of the trumpeterâs albums starting in 1992 (The Vibe, Of Kindred Souls, Family, RH Factor). Cary left in 1994, and his first album as a leader was issued in 1995, "Cary On," featuring Hargrove as a guest, and flutist Yarborough Charles Laws, who would become a regular member of Caryâs Indigenous People band.

Today, Caryâs critically acclaimed album catalogue boasts more than a dozen separate titles under his own name, Indigenous People, his Focus Trio, and the Rhodes Ahead project.
But "Rhodes Ahead Vol 2." deserves to bring him to the collective attention of a much wider public - especially a young hip audience - and further establish him as one of the most exciting and innovative prospects on the global jazz and urban scene today.
Words SIMON REDLEY

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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