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Marc Cary, a Washington native who’s now a busy New York pianist, has a neat approach to “world” jazz. His bassist, David Ewell, draws on his Chinese heritage in his spatial and harmonic technique; Sameer Gupta, the drummer, doubles on the tabla and also mixes Indian coloration into his traps; and Cary himself makes use of his Native American ancestry as well as African-American traditions in his composing and improvising.
Focus Trio is the name of the band, and the overarching effect is more subtle than you might expect. The sound is recognizably piano jazz, albeit with some more complex structures and more intricate rhythmic interplay from the musicians. The primary takeaway from the trio’s live set is ferocity. Gupta flails at the drums with intense precision, and Ewell rumbles along on tears that many bassists would dilute without even realizing it. As for Cary, he has the chops to be a powerhouse or the gentlest man in the room—-although even when he’s gentle, the power lurks glaringly in his fingers. He loves a groove, too, and will slip in some go-go when you’re not expecting it. How’s that for an act at the DC Jazz Festival?
Marc Cary and the Focus Trio perform tonight (and tomorrow night) at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $20.