Makaya McCraven: In These Times Review – a generous unwind | Jazz

Bborn in Paris, raised in the bohemian enclave of Northampton, Massachusetts and based in Chicago, percussionist and songwriter Makaya McCraven is not one for boundaries or restrictions. His fourth album of original compositions – his wider discography is busier than that – sees the drummer ignoring many of the preconceptions that come with the word “jazz” in favor of something you might call improvised music from black origin. In this, he makes common cause with updates such as our very own Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia, who collaborated with McCraven on 2018. universal beingsand Jeff Parker of Tortoise, Chicago avant-garde, guest here on guitar.

In these times no shortage of elegiac horns or intense time signatures – McCraven’s latest work, 2021 Decrypt the message, reinvented Blue Note classics. The title track samples Harry Belafonte discussing mythical African-American figure John Henry, situating this record within the ongoing struggle for black self-determination. But there’s a generous sense of unwinding here, with hip-hop breakbeats (on a standout, Dream Another) and nods to machine-made music amongst the lavish, genre-independent orchestral instrumentation.

And yet the dreamy murmurs of Brandee Younger’s harp can’t help evoking cosmic jazz, De’Sean Jones’ flute is no stranger to the conservatory, and McCraven himself is a virtuoso of the polyrhythms of hell for leather: just listen to it continue on Seventh String.

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