Dissonance never sounds as beautiful, sexy or mysterious as it does on a Fender Rhodes electric piano. NYC based keys-alchemist Marc Cary is intimately familiar with the aforementioned instrument and all its possibilities, teasing out honey sweet colors and tracing jagged rhythmic landscapes that live at the heart of his newest LP Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2, an album that the preeminent jazz periodical DownBeat Magazine counts as “…one of the most enjoyable albums of the year so far.”
Trying to paint Marc Cary’s music into a corner (Wikipedia lazily labels him a “post-bop” artist) is foolish given the 80-odd years of musical history that is subsumed and repurposed within his work. “Beehive,” the first full track on the LP, starts out with a fairly straight-ahead swing introduction that suddenly morphs into a backbeat-driven fusion funk strut at the thirty second mark. Cue the completely bopped out trumpet lead phrase, which over the stinging groove sounds like Dizzy Gillespie in conversation with The Weather Report or Headhunters. Under the frenetic solo section, wispy synths reach out with gentle caresses from beneath the keys, swelling and receding elegantly to frame the rest of the band’s dance above them.
What I appreciate most about this track – and the rest of this project as a whole – is the nuanced balance struck between virtuosity and pure feel. Too often does contemporary work within a broadly conceived “jazz sensibility” rest heavily on the left side of that balance – unfeeling virtuosity and self-indulgence. But Marc Cary and his trio (rounded out by bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Terreon Gully, with support from trumpeter Igmar Thomas) eases the listener along with them on their sojourn with copious servings of feel, not leaving them to wade through and make sense of heady musical abstractions on their own.
Buy or stream Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 on bandcamp, and be sure not to miss Marc Cary at Palisades next Wednesday, September 23rd, curated by frequent No Smoking collaborator Amani Fela (bonus: sweet set by the absolutely un-comparable Mal Devisa!).