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Marc Cary

An eclectic and original jazz pianist, Marc Cary has built upon a strong post-bop foundation, exploring Afro-cuban, electronic, and groove-based styles. A member of Roy Hargrove's group in the '90s, he went on to establish himself on his own albums like 1995's Cary On and 1997's Listen, bold acoustic dates that showcased his deep grasp of hard bop traditions. Never an artist to remain creatively still, Cary displayed his expansive taste with 1998's The Antidote and 1999's Rhodes Ahead, Vol. 1, productions that found him ably combining modal jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms funk-oriented electronic sounds. Cary further expanded his sound with his Indigenous People ensemble, further embracing Latin, African, and Afro-cuban traditions. On his 2013 solo piano outing, For the Love of Abbey, he paid homage to his former boss vocalist Abbey Lincoln before returning to his genre-bending synth and organ work with 2015's Rhodes Ahead, Vol. 2 and 2021's Life Lessons. Born in New York in 1967, Cary grew up in Washington, D.C. in a creative family with a percussionist father and cellist/painter mother. His grandfather also played trumpet with Cootie Williams (a first cousin) and his great-grandmother played piano for silent movies. In his youth, Cary studied cello, trumpet, and drums before discovering the local funk-based go go music scene - eventually dropping out of high school to pursue his interest. Cary's lifestyle quickly caught up with him and at age fourteen he entered a drug rehabilitation program. It was there that he met teacher Eleanor Oxendine who took him under her wing and taught him how to read music. She also brought him into contact with teacher Daniel Witt who taught him how to play piano and introduced him to jazz. Cary enrolled for study at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts and eventually earned his undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. In the late '80s, Cary moved to New York City where he found work with players like Beaver Harris and Mickey Bass. Tours followed with Arthur Taylor's Wailers and vocalist Betty Carter, the latter-of-whom Cary credits as a major influence on his career. He also joined trumpeter Roy Hargrove's band, appearing on albums like 1992's The Vibe and 1994's Approaching Standards. Also in 1994, he became vocalist Abbey Lincoln's pianist and arranger. As a leader, he made his solo debut with 1995's Cary On, a sophisticated hard bop date featuring contributions by Hargrove, as well as bandmates tenor saxophonist Ron Blake, bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Dion Parson. The equally compelling Listen followed two years later and again featured appearances by saxophonist Blake, as well as trumpeter Terrell Stafford. For 1998's The Antidote, he embraced a more adventurous Afro-Cuban vibe working with Blake, percussionist Daniel Moreno, flutist/percussionist Yarbrough Charles Laws, and others. The following year, he released the ambitious, electro-acoustic album Rhodes Ahead, Vol. 1, featuring his group with bassist Taurus Mateen and flutist Laws. That same year, he also released the trio date Trillium with bassist Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits. He also formed the cross-pollinated Indigenous People ensemble, bringing together African folk traditions, Brazilian and Caribbean grooves with jazz, funk and go-go rhythms. The group debuted in 1999 with the concert album, Captured Live in Brazil. They returned in 2001 with Unite and followed two years later with N.G.G.R. Please. In 2006, Cary released Focus, a trio album with bassist David Ewell and drummer Sameer Gupta. Also that year, he collaborated with vocalist Shon "Chance" Miller on Abstrakt/Blak, playing Fender Rhodes and synths on a mix jazz, funk, and M-Base influenced material. Over the years, Cary moved into teaching, holding positions at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music. Still, performing has remained a vital focus of his career. In 2010, he released a live trio album, followed three years later by For the Love of Abbey, a solo piano tribute to Abbey Lincoln. The expansive Rhodes Ahead, Vol. 2 arrived in 2015 as a follow-up to his genre-bending 1999 album. Cary returned in 2021 with Life Lessons, which again found him exploring his love of the Fender Rhodes organ, ambient electronica, and synthesizers.
© Matt Collar /TiVo
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