Makaya McCraven is an acclaimed Paris-born Chicago-based jazz percussionist, beatmaker and producer, who has released a remarkable run of critically applauded, genre-defying and re-defining albums that includes 2015’s The Moment, 2017’s Highly Rare, 2018’s Universal Beings, 2020’s We’re New Again and Universal Beings E&F Sides, and last year’s Deciphering the Message.
McCraven’s newest album, In These Times is slated for a September 23, 2022 release through International Anthem/Nonesuch/XL Recordings. The album is a collection of polytemporal compositions inspired as much by broader cultural struggles as it is by McCraven’s personal experience as the producer of a multinational, working class musician community. In These Times‘ material was seven years in the making, and was consistently in process in the background while McCraven was in the middle of his critically applauded run of albums.
Featuring contributions from a talented cast of collaborators including Jeff Parker, Junius Paul, Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, Marquis Hill, Lia Kohl, Macie Stewart, Zara Zaharieva, Marta Sofia Honer, Greg Ward, Irvin Pierce, Matt Gold, Greg Spero, De’Sean Jones, and Rob Clearfield, the new album was recorded in five different studios and four live performance spaces while McCraven engaged in extensive post-production work at home. Sonically, the album sees McCraven and his collaborators weaving orchestral, large ensemble arrangements with the “organic beat music” sound that’s become his signature sound. The end result is an album that’s reportedly a bold and decided evolution for McCraven as a composer and as a producer.
Last month, I wrote about In These Times single “Seventh String,” a dazzling and dizzying composition featuring rolling bursts of polyrhythmic drumming and beats, glistening, finger plucked guitar, gorgeous orchestral strings, twinkling bursts of harp and soulful flute lines.
In These Times‘ first single “Seventh String” was a dazzling and dizzying composition centered around rolling bursts of polyrhythmic drumming, glistening, finger plucked guitar, gorgeous orchestral strings, twinkling bursts of harp, soulful flute lines. While the composition smudges then blurs the lines between J. Dilla-like beatmaking and jazz, it sees the musicians carefully walking a tightrope between chaos and order, free-flowing improvisation and structured composition in a way that’s thoughtful, mischievous, and forceful yet breathtakingly gorgeous.
Written and recorded in McCraven’s Chicago-based home studio, In These Times‘ second and latest single “Dream Another” features Brandee Younger (harp), Junius Paul (bass), Matt Gold (guitar, sitar) and De’Sean Jones (flute) on a gorgeous and expansion composition that simultaneously nods at 70s soul jazz and jazz fusion and psychedelia in a way that reminds me a bit of synthesis of Return to Forever, Mahavisnu Orchestra and the aforementioned — and beloved — J. Dilla.
Directed by Nik Arthur, the accompanying visualizer features hand-drawn, digital and photographic animations composed and then laser-etched into stone in the style of a “zoopraxiscope,” a 19th century animation device that predates the motion picture, and allowed images to move on screen for the first time.