Pianist Marc Cary has spent close to a decade honing a distinctive sound and improvisational approach with his enduring and much acclaimed Focus Trio. Despite a few shifts in the bass chair, and an ever-transforming array of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, the band’s original mission remains the same: “to bring indigenous rhythms together with American jazz to create new palettes of sound.” On “Four Directions,” the band’s first studio recording in eight years, Cary once again leads the boundlessly creative Sameer Gupta on drums and percussion with two new recruits, Burniss Earl Travis and Rashaan Carter, sharing the bass duties. Cary devotes the disc in part to an acoustic aesthetic—while also exploring a full range between organic and electronic sounds. This multi-dimensional approach has always been a hallmark of Cary’s musical identity.
On his third release as a leader, “Don’t Be That Way,” clarinetist Dave Bennett shows that his skills and interests go far beyond that of channeling any of his stylistic predecessors like Benny Goodman, Pete Fountain or Artie Shaw. Once a member of the original Hot Club of Detroit, Bennett stays within the mainstream repertoire, covering several of Goodman’s most famous records. Together with his arranger Shelly Berger, Dave updates these songs with modern twists created specifically for his long-time band mates.
Also this week, trumpeter Carol Morgan realizes her dream of working with guitarist Mike Stern on her fifth leader date, “Retroactive”; guitarist Frank Potenza honors his friend and mentor Joe Pass with “For Joe,” which features members of Joe’s working band for many years, John Pisano, Jim Hughart and Colin Bailey; and Project Them brings reunites former high school mates Mark Sherman on vibes and Bob Franceschini sax and flute for their debut release with this new band.