Marc Cary Quartet – Summerfest
“There isn’t much in the modern-jazz-musician tool kit that Marc Cary hasn’t mastered, but he has a particular subspecialty in the area of groove…with a range of rhythmic strategies, from a deep-house pulse to a swinging churn.” Nate Chinen, NY Times Jazz Critic
In a jazz world brimming with brilliant and adventurous pianists, Marc Cary stands apart by way of pedigree and design as one of New York’s best jazz pianists. None of his prestigious peer group ever set the groove behind the drums in Washington DC go-go bands nor are any others graduates of both Betty Carter and Abbey Lincoln’s daunting bandstand academies. Cary hails from a musically literate family–his mother is a cellist; his great grandmother was an ivory-tickler in silent movie houses back in that day who also rocked barrelhouse and stride duets with Eubie Blake. Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams was a cousin of Cary’s grandfather.
The player-composer and improviser is a graduate of DC’s world-renowned Duke Ellington School For The Arts, also the professional spawning ground for Dave Chappelle, Wallace Roney, Denyce Graves and Meshell Ndegeocello whom Cary jammed with in the school’s orchestra.
Besides Carter and Lincoln, the next decade of his life found him sharing stages and cultivating craft with Dizzy Gillespie, Arthur Taylor, Carlos Garnett, Jackie McLean, Wynton Marsalis and one more goddess-figure among jazz vocalists, Carmen McRae.
The pianist’s debut recording as a leader was released in 1995. Since then Cary’s released a baker’s dozen albums of music under his direction–three of those within the past two years for Motéma.
Cary remains one of the progenitors of contemporary jazz, evident in his influence on peers. Live gigs with vibraphonist Stefon Harris and bandmate Casey Benjamin began the genesis of Robert Glasper’s recording Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Cary’s record “Taiwa” from Focus in 2006 evolved into “For You” on Glasper’s Double Booked and Harris’ Urbanus. Cary collaborator Roy Hargrove exalted him with “Caryisms” on 1992’s The Vibe, an album whose title track is one of two Cary originals including “Running Out of Time”–now part of the lexicon of live repertoire among jazz stalwarts Hargrove, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Igmar Thomas’ Revive Big Band.
Marc remains one of New York’s best jazz pianists, and as a leading improviser, now heads up the jazz improvisation classes at Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School.