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Any antidote to much of today's piano jazz is certainly welcome as we grapple with greeting a new millenium. Pianist Marc Cary may just be it. After nearly two decades, jazz has probably had enough of ivory tinklers that do little more than recycle the masters or exhume the past. Thirty-two year old Marc Cary has something new to say on The Antidote, his third album since his 1994 Enja debut. Like Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock or McCoy Tyner a generation before, he's brimming with exciting ideas and a strong, clear voice to express it all.
The Antidote is a genuinely refreshing musical statement. Dedicated, as Cary puts it, to understanding the cycle of life, it is a work of surprising maturity and thought-provoking stimulation.
Cary, who's gigged with Betty Carter, Art Taylor, Roy Hargrove and Abbey Lincoln, dresses himself well here. His sartorial partner is the crisp, effervescent sax master Ron Blake, currently with Art Farmer's group. Blake has a slick knack of pushing borders without going all the way out or too far into quietude. Moreover, he well understands Cary's musical principles. Their intuition for one another is uncanny (especially during the Tyneresque "Chappaquitic Woman" and the piano-sax duet of "Dedicated To You").
The mood is also heightened significantly by Cary's deft replacement of a drummer with two percussionists (Yarbrough Charles Laws, Daniel Moreno): an especially appealing addition to the more rhythmic reflections of "The Seven Principles," "Three Wise Men" and the meditative Alice Coltrane-meets-Roland Kirk drone of "The Sage."
But Cary often conveys his best messages solo. Like Ran Blake or Paul Bley, Cary's solo conversations are brimming with passion and provoking in their stimulating qualities. This is a sign of Cary's true gift. Note the riveting beauty of Duke Ellington's "Melancholia" (the sound of someone like Alice Coltrane interpolating something like Bill Evans's "Peace Piece") and the grace with which Cary explores Satie's "Gnossienne - 1890," building an intensity toward an almost Hancock-like funk waltz.
There's a spellbinding alchemy throughout The Antidote among the players and even within the sorcery whipped up by pianist Marc Cary all on his own. Check it out and listen for more. The Antidote is easily recommended.
Players:Marc Cary: piano; Ron Blake: soprano, alto and tenor saxophone; John Ormond: bass; Yarbrough Charles Laws, Daniel Moreno: percussion.
Songs:The Seven Principles/Divine Paradox; Three Wise Men; When I Think of You; Melancholia; Gnossienne - 1890; Chappaquitic Woman; Dedicated To You; Mae'tix; The Sage' The Divine Paradox.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.