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About Makaya McCraven
Drummer, composer, and producer Makaya McCraven uses the 21st century tenet of genre-blending creative music to push at the boundaries of sound and rhythm in pursuit of forging new musical directions. Commonly referred to as a "beat scientist," McCraven's seamless meld of jazz, hip-hop, rock, and global rhythmic traditions — as displayed on his universally acclaimed 2015 set In the Moment — draws equally on established traditions from jazz-funk, post-bop and fusion and rubs them up against fingerpopping left-field beat explorations. Outside his own creations, he's been a regular member of guitarist Bobby Broom's trio, worked with pianist Greg Spero in a trio and later with his Spirit Fingers group, played with trumpeter and 21st century fusion soul pioneer Marquis Hill, and founded funky jazz-rock-hip-hop pioneers Cold Duck Complex while still in high school. He has headlined his own albums and tours in configurations ranging from trios to orchestras.
McCraven was born in Paris, France in 1983, the son of jazz drummer Stephen McCraven (Sam Rivers, Archie Shepp) and Hungarian folk singer Agnes Zsigmondi. As a child, his family relocated to Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, an area that Shepp and Yusef Lateef called home. Shepp and Lateef helped his parents mentor the boy by exposing him to a broad range of musical traditions. He began playing drums before he was ten. In high school he pursued music studies seriously. His Cold Duck Complex cut three albums and toured regionally in the opening slot for hip-hop acts. The band was a favorite at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Matriculating there for college, McCraven furthered his studies and played in the University Jazz Orchestra.
He relocated to Chicago in 2006 and almost instantly became an integral part of its thriving music scene, working with musicians ranging from Ari Brown and Broom to Corey Wilkes and Henry Johnson. He told Chicago Magazine that his reason for relocating to the Windy City was predicated by "...a tradition in Chicago that’s not stuck in the same trends as a place like New York. Chicago has a tradition of subversive music, and that, to me, is really intriguing, especially today, in times of political resistance. The tradition of a lot of Chicago music is one of resistance or labor or oppression and corruption." The drummer established his bona fides by playing on recordings by Apollo Sunshine and Kris Delmhorst.
McCraven's first leader date was the trio offering Split Decision, issued by Chicago Sessions and featuring bassist Tim Seisser and pianist Andrew Toombs. Touring hard both locally and across the country, McCraven was working on what would become his next outing — and the one that put him on the map — In the Moment, issued by International Anthem. McCraven recorded a total 28 live concerts at Chicago's The Bedford with a cast of revolving musicians including Jeff Parker, Joshua Abrams, Hill, and bassist Junius Paul over the course of a year. He ended up with a total of 48 hours of music. He then edited and remixed it into a double-length offering of high-potency jazz/beat/improvisational music. The album made dozens of media year-end best-of lists and garnered positive reviews from publications including the New York Times and Jazz Times. The following year, he compiled an additional 40 minutes and released it as In the Moment E & F Sides. This method became an M.O. for McCraven. That same year he served as Hill's drummer for The Way We Play on Concord. McCraven and his band(s) toured Europe playing the festival circuit as well as North American jazz festivals from Newport to Detroit to Los Angeles, and headlined a widely celebrated date at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Also in 2016, he and his band packed an audience into Chicago dive Danny's Tavern armed with a four-track cassette machine. After the gig was captured in glorious bootleg quality, the drummer went to work editing and remixing, eventually ending up with Highly Rare, whose initial release was a limited-edition run of cassettes packaged in screen-printed, string-sealed, firecracker-red envelopes, and later digitally and on LP on his own International Phonograph Inc. in 2017. The following year, he contributed to producer MAST's (Tim Conley) Thelonious Sphere Monk, a radical revisioning of the great composer's and pianist's best loved tunes. McCraven's own next effort, Where We Come From, followed in the footsteps of previous releases, with a twist: He moved outside his usual Chicago stable of players and taped a London performance in October of 2017 with Kamaal Williams and Joe Armon-Jones on keyboards. He used a recording of the gig as the base structure from which to build an elaborate mix. After recording, McCraven provided the tape to a slew of producers to chop, splice, and remix. After they finished, McCraven took the recordings back, and added his own signature sense of rhythm and feel. The result took exotic elements from jazz's history and grafted them onto hip-hop production and deep, funky grooves. Where We Come From was issued by International Anthem — which advanced the set with four documentary promo videos — in the summer of 2018.
- Paris, France
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