Marc Cary Focus Trio – 8:00 p.m. – Coffee House
The small stage is crammed with gear — in addition to piano, bass and drums, there’s a Fender keyboard, a set of tablas, two laptop computers and an array of mixers and effects boxes strung together with yards of cable.
Despite this daunting display, Cary’s set starts out swinging… with the force of a heavyweight boxer. Cary’s forceful postbop statements are loud and direct, countered by David Ewell’s thick, tough bass lines and Sameer Gupta’s kinetic, bass-heavy drums.
The music has the heat and density of a neutron star. An acoustic trio simply isn’t supposed to be able to make this much noise, at least not without sounding like — well, noise. But Cary’s trio is in the pocket.
The mood shifts dramatically when vocalist Samita Sinha enters for what begins as a dark, spacey tune called “One: God Is Love.” This piece draws heavily from Indian classical music, but its course runs through Spanish Harlem. Sinha’s startlingly beautiful vocals glide from a low moan to a soaring peak as Cary alternates between drifting electronics and earthy piano. Knobs are twiddled and buttons pushed, but the technology never gets in the way of what has become an uplifting sonic experience.
Indi-bop fusions are nothing new, but there’s something about this particular group — with Sinha’s sinuous vocals twined ’round Cary’s heavy strides — that sounds truly unique, and utterly hypnotic.
Returning to a trio, Cary loses a bit of the magic with a relentlessly trilling Ellingtonian ballad. But Gupta’s tender, undulating piece “Taiwa” reclaims the set’s sense of spirituality, finding strength not so much from volume or rhythmic drive as from somewhere deep within the souls of the artists.