Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Makaya McCraven's "Deciphering the Message" and West Coast Tour: Feb 18 - 26 | "Makaya McCraven Sees the Future of Jazz Through Layers of History" | New York Times


The Guardian's primer to the contemporary body of musicians comprising the new UK jazz sound, "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook" might be the most satisfying single read on the scene on the other side of the Atlantic, but the concurrent set of musicians in the midwest's windy city, have met their challenge with an equal and voluminous set of releases. Drummer Makaya McCraven has been a pivotal figure in this Chicago scene since the earliest of the releases issuing from him and a set of regular collaborators heard on his "In The Moment" from 2015. Featuring nineteen rhythmic jams that were born of improvisation, this wasn't a cacophonous free jazz, but instead a new body of groove-oriented spontaneous soul jazz that was culled from 48 hours of recordings spanning 28 shows. A multitude of live chops on display alongside dense processes, synth lines, and rhythmic programming, that album acted as a foreshadowing for the more-intensive studio construction that is his debut for the legendary Blue Note label. This meeting of a new scene and sound, with the longest running legacy in American jazz is the locus of the New York Times "Makaya McCraven Sees the Future of Jazz Through Layers of History" feature on the musician, and their wider overview, "Chicago and Jazz at Play, Ideally." His interview for The Guardian, "‘Evolution is Part of Tradition’: Musician Makaya McCraven on the Future of Jazz" maps the last decade in which McCraven cemented his status as one of the most individual voices in contemporary jazz, pioneering his technique with a group of local collaborators to create the albums, "Universal Beings", "Highly Rare", and his astute reconfiguration of Gil-Scott Heron, "We're New Again", straddling improvisation and influences culled from neo-soul, and hip hop's mentality and approach to sample splicing.

All of which became more explicit on his deeper foray in beat sciences with 2021's "Deciphering the Message". It's belated live component will finally be swinging through the west coast with a series of shows spanning February, including a date at Seattle's Neptune Theatre. This newest album is craftily camouflaged as a homage to the Blue Note Records hard-bop catalog of the 1960s, in which McCraven has seamlessly assembled a mix of live shows of his own band, clips of the classic Blue Note originals, and his hip hop schooled gifts for making cutting-edge beats out of almost any sonic element and recorded sound. "Deciphering the Message" contributes another facet to McCraven's growing discography; the ability to assimilate and reconfigure some of the legendary height's of jazz past, into a liquid, changeable new form of his own making. While it has been a soul-stifling year due to the continuance of the global pandemic, McCraven is among a 21st century body of musicians effectively "Rewriting the Rules of Jazz", who have produced bountiful collaborations and an array of top-notch albums. Most notably new releases from Chicago's International Anthem label, New York's Eremite, and the UK's scene represented by Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings label have gone against the grain of the year's inertia. Culled from all of these, London's Soul Jazz Records have assembled the most comprehensive overview of this chiaroscuro with their "Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown" compilation, fixating heavily on both the London and Chicago players. From these cities and respective scenes, in the last year we've also seen releases like Joshua Abrams' Natural Information Society in collaboration with Evan Parker and the lush expanse of Floating Points wondrous new collaboration with Pharoah Sanders on "Promises".