The Chicago-based drummer-producer creates innovative mixtures of jazz and hip-hop. Info/tix
Chicago-based drummer and producer Makaya McCraven has created an omnivorous body of work that draws on both jazz and hip-hop, not so much splicing those two things together as exploring and expanding the spaces where they're already inextricably linked. McCraven recorded with a trio for debut album as a bandleader, 2012's Split Decision, and since then has taken a more sprawling approach to his albums, recording improvised sessions with a vast array of collaborators and cutting them into pieces he has called "organic beat music." (Madison's own Tony Barba shows up on his 2015 album In The Moment.) This process yields astonishing results on his 2018 double album Universal Beings, recorded in Chicago, London, New York, and LA with musicians including cellist Tomeka Reid, guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Junius Paul, and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings.
It feels unsatisfactory to think of McCraven's production approach as beatmaking in any familiar sense, because it matches the fluidity and openness of the source material to the point that one rarely notices that anything has been looped or chopped up. Universal Beings tracks like "Voila" and "Atlantic Black" derive rich, episodic compositions from improvised sessions. It's music that gives us the benefits of both hindsight and being wrapped up in the moment. "Inner Flight" and "Turtle Tricks" have a lot in common with the more chilled-out and spacey reaches of hip-hop production, yet are as alive and inquisitive as any of the more aggressive moments on the record. McCraven has played Madison several times recently as part of the excellent Trio Mokili, but it's exciting to have him showcasing his solo work here. —Scott Gordon