By Frank Alkyer | Published March 2015
With Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2, keyboard artist Marc Cary picks up where he left off—some 16 years ago. Cary releasedRhodes Ahead Vol. 1 in 1999 as an homage to all that the Fender Rhodes piano and synthesizer can do. The second edition is like two old friends meeting and picking up right where they left off. Cary has pulled in drummer Terreon Gully and bassist Tarus Mateen from the Vol. 1 date and added some terrific guests: trumpeter Igmar Thomas, violinist Arun Ramamurthy, guitarist Aurelien Budynek, percussionist Daniel Moreno, tabla player Sameer Gupta, Jabari Exum on djembe, vocalist Sharif Simmons and bassist Burniss Earl Travis II. This is a disc beautifully dedicated to exploring groove, sound and culture, blurring the lines between musical style and setting to create one of the most enjoyable albums of the year so far. “7th Avenue North” serves up a chill groove featuring some incredible, toe-tapping interplay between Gully’s drums and Gupta’s tabla. On “African Market,” the musical imagery is so solid, you can almost see Cary and crew strolling through the titular outdoor bazaar—an aural painting of the highest order. For those who like a great headphones record, tunes like “Spices And Mystics” will hit home. Cary’s imaginative keyboard work dances and dazzles. Ramamurthy cranks the violin with hard-core passion. It’s like drum-and-bass meets Moroccan folk. Cary is at the top of his craft, and nothing sounds forced here. A variety of influences inform Cary’s work, but he makes sure they all fold into a very broad, groove-filled vision. There’s also one cover tune in the program, Harold Mabern’s “Beehive,” and it’s a gem. Cary gives this tune, made famous by trumpeter Lee Morgan, an acid-jazz update, with trumpeter Thomas taking on the Morgan role. Other highlights from the set include the try-not-to-dance “Below The Equator” and “The Alchemist’s Notes.” The latter features a great dialog between Cary, Gully and Mateen with spoken-word contributions from Simmons, which seems to sum up the spirit of the recording. It’s inclusive and searching, seeking a new way of seeing music, art and the world—through groove.