‘Evolution is part of tradition': musician Makaya McCraven on the future of jazz

Asia's Tech News Daily

Fusing bebop with hip-hop sampling, the Chicago-based drummer is finding new ways on his Blue Note debut to expand the boundaries of jazz

Each day we have so many choices to make and we are constantly improvising them, just like playing jazz,” says the drummer-composer Makaya McCraven. “Even when we try to organise and sanitise the world so that we can function – that’s us improvising in different frameworks. It’s all an expression of life.”

Wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Listen more” – as if signposting to his interviewer – the 38-year-old McCraven is fizzing with energy while speaking from his basement home studio in Chicago. As he philosophically explores his unique style of composition – improvising while playing live and then chopping up the subsequent recordings to create a patchwork of samples – his wife calls out from upstairs that she’s got his lunch.

“One second,” he turns away from the webcam. “I’m doing an interview with an international newspaper!” he shouts back, smiling mischievously. “See – always improvising.”

McCraven moved to Chicago from western Massachusetts in 2007. “I was following love, since my wife got a position at Northwestern University here,” he says. It was an inspired move: his wife, Nitasha Tamar Sharma, is now a professor of African American studies and Asian American studies, while McCraven has spent the past decade cementing his status as one of the most individual voices in jazz, pioneering his technique with a group of local collaborators to create a sound that straddles instrumental improvisation and the hip-hop mentality of splicing samples.

The result has been a spate of critically acclaimed records, such as 2015’s In the Moment, the 2018 mixtape collaboration Universal Beings, and We’re New Again, his 2020 reimagining of Gil Scott-Heron’s final album I’m New Here. This cut-and-paste approach reaches its apex on his latest album, Deciphering the Message, which is also his debut on the Blue Note label – home to such legendary jazz innovators as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock. On it, McCraven was given free rein to recontextualise tracks from the the Blue Note archive using his production process.

Speaking in ever-branching tangents, as if following the improvisatory lines of a solo, McCraven explains how he sees his methodology as a continuation of tradition rather than a break from the norm. “Sampling is a play between future and past,” he says. “I want to honour the music we came from, and there’s so much sampling in the history of jazz already. You’ll hear similar intros on different tracks, or people who are trading licks and playing the same ideas. They have been engaging with the music in the way that sampling engages with it, but now we’re just using technology.”

As such, Deciphering the Message traces the legacies of these licks and musical similarities through the prism of drummer Horace Silver, leader of the Jazz Messengers – an incubator of talent who saw the likes of saxophonist Hank Mobley, trumpeter Kenny Dorham and guitarist Kenny Burrell pass through his orbit. McCraven flips Mobley’s A Slice of the Top into a boom-bap introduction, slips a rhythmic shuffle beneath the languorous changes of Burrell’s Autumn in New York, while Dorham’s Whistle Stop is transmuted into a sludgy funk.

Drum role … Makaya McCraven performs at the Barcelona Jazz Festival, November 2019. Photograph: Jordi Vidal/Redferns

“I wanted to highlight the familial side of this music; I’ve always loved that a band of musicians can become a community and affect a whole scene or moment in time,” he says. “So many musicians are deeply connected to each other, they’ve cut their teeth together, and when the younger guys come in, they help them up, too.”

Born to musical parents in Paris – his mother is a Hungarian folk musician and his father a drummer who played for John Coltrane collaborator Archie Shepp – McCraven is accustomed to the ancestral communality of the jazz scene. “There was an extended musical family, where a lot of different cats would be popping in and out at home for jam sessions and stuff that probably shouldn’t be going on around a kid,” he laughs. “These musicians were pushing the boundaries, and guys like Archie Shepp taught me about the oral tradition of this music: how it’s about the culture, more than texts.”

Related: Makaya McCraven and Gil Scott-Heron: We're New Again review – a modern classic revived

McCraven cut his teeth gigging around Massachusetts’ college towns of Amherst and Northampton, where he would play with rock bands, reggae groups, jazzers and wedding outfits. “I was just keeping busy, playing as much as I could, self-recording and experimenting,” he says. “Creating that sense of community, since I’ve always believed that if you do right for the music, the music will do right for you.”

It is an open-eared ethos that has led him to a wide group of collaborators, from younger British musicians such as the Mercury prize-nominated saxophonist Nubya Garcia to his fellow Chicagoans Junius Paul and Ben LaMar Gay. “I only really want to make music with people I feel I can be vulnerable around and trust,” McCraven says. “Especially when we’re playing live, you create this magic of bringing people together and it’s something that produces real emotion. We crave it.”

The vitality of the live scene is what has drawn McCraven to London in recent years. “Young musicians define this music; it’s kids like Lee Morgan or Herbie Hancock who were 19 or 20 years old and shaping its sound,” he says. It was seeing young musicians such as Garcia and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings on stage, playing to their peers, that caught his attention. “There wasn’t a discussion of gatekeeping or honouring tradition. It felt like people realising that evolution is part of the tradition. And culture only evolves when people travel and trade ideas.”

Progress as being intrinsic to the form is McCraven’s mantra and a reason why jazz is so hard to define as an entity – it is always changing. Is that the underlying “message” he is trying to decipher on this album? “If I knew what it was, I wouldn’t be asking you to work it out by listening,” he laughs. “I just want to honour this music: improvised music, Black American music, whatever you want to call it. I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m just learning how it’s constructed and using that knowledge to make a statement that will stand the test of time.”

Deciphering the Message is out now

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


BNNVARA: content BOOS remains secret until Thursday

The broadcaster refers to the press release that was sent last weekend. “We cannot provide more information in advance,” said the spokesperson. BNNVARA reported on Saturday that The Voice-band leader ... Read more »

Locals Help Free Plow From Deep Snow as Winter Storm Hits Ontario

Locals helped free a plow that had become stuck in deep snow in Ontario, Canada, on January 17, as a winter storm hit the region. Video filmed by Zoey Dimitrova-Chappell ... Read more »

UTA Drops Lara Logan After Comments Comparing Anthony Fauci To Josef Mengele

Lara Logan no longer is represented by UTA, after her comments in late November in which she compared Dr. Anthony Fauci to Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who performed ... Read more »

Joss Whedon Denies That He Threatened Gal Gadot's Career: 'English Is Not Her First Language'

Gal Gadot Clashed with Joss Whedon Amy Sussman/Getty; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic Gal Gadot (L); Joss Whedon Joss Whedon denies that he threatened Gal Gadot's career. In a new interview with New ... Read more »

GMB's Ranvir Singh says she was sexually assaulted as a child as she interviews Epstein victim

Good Morning Britain host Ranvir Singh has opened up about being sexually assaulted as a child. The TV presenter made the admission while presenting the documentary Ghislaine, Prince Andrew and ... Read more »

Peter Andre's video of son Junior, 16, divides fans – and even the teenager is embarrassed

Peter Andre is a proud dad to four children, and he often shares that pride via his Instagram – either showing off their latest achievements or simply singing their praises. ... Read more »

Laura Coates, Who Alex Trebek Named as Potential ‘Jeopardy' Host, Says Producers Told Her ‘No' (Video)

A few years before he died, “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek said that CNN legal analyst Laura Coates was someone he thought would make a good replacement for him should he ... Read more »

Musk and Bezos among world's 10 richest men who doubled their wealth in pandemic

Elon Musk is the world’s richest man. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters The fortunes of the 10 wealthiest men in the world have more than doubled since the start of the COVID-19 ... Read more »

COVID-19 restrictions extended, teachers must disclose vaccination status

VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor has extended a COVID-19 order that will keep gyms and fitness centres closed and limit gatherings at events and restaurants. Dr. Bonnie Henry is ... Read more »

The Omicron Shift in Europe: Pandemic or Endemic?

View of the site of a temporary field hospital in the grounds of St. George’s Hospital, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in London, Britain, January 11, ... Read more »

Hazel O'Connor: Punk singer placed in induced coma after bleed on the brain

The actress was rushed to hospital after being found at her home in southwest France on Sunday. Read more »

"I've never seen anything like this": Powerful storm pummels Ontario, Quebec

People in Ontario and Quebec are trying to dig themselves out of a severe snowstorm. Mike Drolet and Mike Armstrong report on how the blizzard kept snow plows busy, how ... Read more »

Economists Say Bank of Canada to Begin Hiking Rates Next Week

(Bloomberg) — Canadian banks are bringing forward their forecasts for interest rate hikes to as early as next week, amid growing evidence the economy is hitting limits and inflation pressures ... Read more »

Winter Storm Blankets Eastern Kentucky With Snow

Residents of eastern Kentucky awoke to a blanket of snow on Monday, January 17, after a winter storm brought heavy snow to parts of the state. Drone footage taken by ... Read more »

Timelapse Footage Captures Snowfall Accumulation in Toronto

A winter storm brought heavy snow to southern Ontario on Monday, January 17, prompting the closure of several highways due to stalled vehicles, police said. Timelapse footage filmed by Toronto ... Read more »

Billionaire Wealth Has Soared As Millions Fell Into Poverty During Pandemic: Oxfam

As the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has raged on, the world’s richest have only got richer, while tens of millions of people have plunged into poverty. In a report released Sunday, ... Read more »

'Just trying to remain calm': Some stuck on Highway 401 in Toronto for more than 8 hours as storm wallops city

Airport taxi driver Sukhi Sidhu says he’s been stranded on Toronto‘s Highway 401 since 7:15 a.m. ET. (CBC – image credit) When airport taxi driver Sukhi Sidhu set out on ... Read more »

Julia Fox Apologizes To 'Deadbeat' Ex As Her Romance With Kanye West Heats Up

Julia Fox (left) and Peter Artemiev with their son, Valentino, in 2021. (Photo: Santiago Felipe via Getty Images) Julia Fox is ready to make amends with her former partner, Peter ... Read more »

Joss Whedon denies threatening Gal Gadot's career during 'Justice League,' calls Ray Fisher 'a bad actor'

Disgraced filmmaker Joss Whedon has publicly responded to actors Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot following their accusations of Whedon’s misconduct on the set of 2017’s “Justice League.” “I’m terrified of ... Read more »

Ontario snow storm delays return to classrooms

A major winter storm postponed a return to in-class learning in Ontario. Caryn Lieberman reports. Read more »

Ontario Police Survey Stalled Vehicles on Highways Impacted by Winter Storm

Several highways were closed in Toronto, Canada, on Monday, January 17, police said, as heavy snow halted drivers amid a winter storm warning for the region. Footage filmed by the ... Read more »

Wendy Moten to sing national anthem at Grizzlies MLK game

© Provided by Action News 5 Memphis Memphis native Wendy Moten on ‘The Voice’ MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – Monday’s Grizzlies game against the Chicago Bulls, will have a special tribute ... Read more »

Star producer Kim Tae-ho leaves MBC after 21 years

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) — Kim Tae-ho, the star producer best known for the hit MBC TV show “Infinite Challenge,” has left the broadcaster after 21 years. Monday was the ... Read more »

Kristin Davis shares how she will approach SATC with her kids

Kristin Davis, known for her role of Charlotte on Sex and the City has told fans how she will approach conversations about the hit 90s show with her children. The ... Read more »

Snow-much fun, the lighter side of Old Man Winters' dumping

Today has that first snowfall feeling, as the white stuff piles up many decided to either embrace it, or hide from it. Photos and videos of people helping each other ... Read more »

Albert Verlinde did not want to throw Humberto Tan ‘in one heap' with scandals The Voice gossip

Verlinde states that he referred to Tan, who would make advances to women with apps, as ‘an example of the corporate culture that prevailed at RTL at the time’. In ... Read more »

Colombian author García Márquez had secret Mexican daughter

The Associated PressFILE – Colombian Nobel Literature laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez greets fans and reporters outside his home on his 87th birthday in Mexico City, March 6, 2014. It was ... Read more »

Albert Verlinde: ‘I don't blame Humberto for undesired behaviour'

Verlinde states that he referred to Tan as ‘an example of the corporate culture that prevailed at RTL at the time’. In his own words, he had not realized that ... Read more »

Verlinde: I didn't want to lump Humberto together with The Voice

With his comments in Shownieuws, Albert Verlinde did not want to ‘bundle’ Humberto Tan with the cross-border behavior at The Voice. The showbiz expert stated this in the program tonight, ... Read more »

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian Reportedly Are 'Not On Good Terms' After a Week of Drama

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian Reportedly Are ‘Not On Good Terms’ After a Week of Drama In the past week, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West seem to have hit a ... Read more »

Woman reunited with missing cat after recognising his meow on phone call

A mother-of-three was reunited with her cat, who had been missing for eight months, after recognising his meow during a phone call. Rachael Lawrence, of Braintree in Essex, said she ... Read more »

Kim Kardashian Posts Series of Sexy Bikini Photos — and Fans Think Pete Davidson Took Them

kim kardashian Kim Kardashian/Instagram Kim Kardashian is the queen of swimsuit snapshots, so it's no surprise that her latest bikini-clad photo shoot is causing a buzz. But fans aren't only ... Read more »

Bella Hadid Opens Up About Her 'Excruciating and Debilitating' Mental Health Struggles

bella hadid Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Bella Hadid is speaking honestly about her mental health. The 25-year-old supermodel spoke to WSJ. Magazine for the publication's “My Monday Morning” series, where ... Read more »

Johan Derksen: John de Mol should have sent Rietbergen away

Johan Derksen says in tonight VI today, in response to the abuses in The Voice of Holland, that ‘John de Mol has made a serious mistake’. Referring to the unacceptable ... Read more »

Nightly Notable: Rudy Gobert | Jan. 16

Rudy Gobert returns from Health and Safety Protocols after missing 5 games. Gobert finished the game with 18 points and 19 rebounds in the Jazz win over the Nuggets. Read more »

Tova O'Brien taking Newshub to court in employment stoush over new MediaWorks role

Tova O’Brien is reportedly locked in a legal stoush with her former employer. The former Newshub political editor is set to make her morning radio debut later this month on ... Read more »

Julia Fox says she's undergone a 'transformation' with Kanye West after boxing up her 'old clothes' and 'old life'

Julia Fox says she’s undergone a “transformation” thanks to her relationship with Ye.Steven Ferdman/FilmMagic Julia Fox says she's undergone a cathartic “transformation” since dating Ye. She's opened up about packing ... Read more »

Bob Saget honoured by America's Funniest Home Videos in touching tribute

Bob Saget has received a touching tribute from America’s Funniest Home Videos. The Full House star was found dead in a hotel room on January 9 and the long-running television ... Read more »

'Racist' junior high immigration assignment has advocates calling for curriculum change

Advocates and university professors are calling this school assignment ‘dehumanizing.’ (Name withheld – image credit) Anti-racism advocates and a university professor are calling an assignment handed out at a junior ... Read more »

Jewish businessman thought to be the person who betrayed Anne Frank to Nazis

This photo taken in 1940 shows Anne Frank at the age of 12 years, sitting at her desk at the Montessori school in Amsterdam. A new Anne Frank Exhibit opened ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic