His new Ensemble Venezuela, which plays the Herbst Theatre June 8, is a sterling gathering of major young players including Mark Turner on saxophone, Marco Granados on flute, Aquiles Báez on cuatro, Ben Street on bass, and Adam Cruz on drums. Báez will also perform with his own band while the local VNote Ensemble (formerly the Snake Trio) offers its take on jazz and Venezuelan traditional sounds.
Such explorations vary conventional presentations and inject unexpected aural flavors. "Jazz is one of the most immediately gratifying art forms there is because it's spontaneous development," pianist Marc Cary explained from New York. "It documents a moment, and that's the moment you want people to hear."
Cary's Focus Trio performs in Healdsburg June 5. His partners onstage are Bay Area musicians Sameer Gupta on drums and tablas and David Ewell on bass. "Sameer is from India and David is from China," said Cary. "I didn't pick them because of that. I play with them because they're good, but they're bringing that too." On his 2006 album Focus (Motema), Cary wanted to get out of the standard chorus-solo-chorus cycle that has sometimes straitjacketed jazz. "I like continuous movement, a straight line, and I like to color that line," Cary mused. Gupta cowrote one song with Cary and contributed the reflective ballad "Taiwa," and his tablas close out the last three Cary originals with a distinctive flourish.
Cary played behind the übervocalist and band leader Betty Carter and has toured with hip-hop vocalist Erykah Badu, whose influences find their way into his work. "If you're really going to play this music in today's times, you have to bring in elements of the past, the present, and what you consider to be the future," Cary said.
That future is now with 23-year-old bassist Esperanza Spalding. The Portland, Ore., native, who graduated from and now teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, recorded her 2006 full-length Junjo (Ayva) with two Cuba-born colleagues from the school: pianist Aruán Ortiz and drummer Francisco Mela. Their rhythmic approaches subtly imbue the recording's sound as Spalding sings wordless, hornlike runs in a bright, fluttery alto. Her latest album, Esperanza (Heads Up), includes flamenco guitar virtuoso Niño Josele, drummer Horacio "El Negro" Hernández, and saxophonist Donald Harrison. She brings her new band to Yoshi's in Oakland June 12.
Why have all these players connected with sounds so far afield? The world has not gotten smaller it's just better connected. Through technology even the most obscure genres find new and far-flung listeners. The communal spirit informing jazz performance and appreciation also transcends differences: jazz musicians have to be open; otherwise they can't play the music. "At the end of the day, jazz is about how you relate to things happening at the moment," Sanchez said. He heard a reality in the African tribal drumming music he listened to and wanted to bring it to his own playing.