Tag: International Anthem Records

New Video: Makaya McCraven Shares Gorgeous and Dream-Like “Dream Another”

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 ParkerJunius PaulBrandee Younger, Joel RossMarquis Hill, Lia KohlMacie StewartZara ZaharievaMarta Sofia HonerGreg Ward, Irvin Pierce, Matt GoldGreg SperoDe’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.

Makaya McCraven is a Paris-born Chicago-based jazz drummer, beatmaker and producer, who has released a run of critically applauded, genre-defying and re-defining albums that includes 2017’s Highly Rare, 2018’s Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) and 2018’s Universal Beings through Chicago-based International Anthem Records. Highly Rare caught the attention of XL Recordings‘ Richard Russell, who recruited the acclaimed Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer to re-imagine Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.  

Released earlier this year, McCraven’s We’re New Again places the original I’m New Here sessions in a new context. using samples collected from McCraven’s improvised live sessions with new wave Chicago jazz musicians and vintage samples taken from the acclaimed Paris-born, Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer’s parents’ recordings.  It’s meant to reconnect Scott-Heron with his birthplace and hometown, as well as a lineage of jazz and blues that perfectly compliments the Chicago-born legendary artist’s imitable voice.

Slated for a July 31, 2020 release through his longtime label home. Universal Beings E&F Sides serves as an addendum to the critically applauded 2018 effort of the same name — but while featuring fourteen new organ beat music compositions that were cut from the original sessions and prepared and produced by McCraven as a soundtrack to a documentary on the recording of the original album. (The physical album will see a September 25, 2020 release.)

The Mark Pallman-directed Universal Beings documentary follows McCraven as he travelled to California, Chicago, London and NYC in a behind-the-scenes look at the creation and recording of his breakthrough album, taking the viewer through the story of his life, his process and the community of musicians that brought the album’s material to life.

So to build up buzz for the new album and the documentary, McCraven and International Anthem have released Universal Beings Sides E&F‘s first single, the angular and percussive “Mak Attack.” Clocking in a little under two minutes, the breakneck composition is centered around complex and rolling polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line and twinkling bursts of keys.  The composition finds the musicians managing to walk a tightrope between chaos and order, free-flowing improvisation and structured composition and as a result, it explodes with a forceful and vital energy.

 

 

New Audio: Makaya McCraven Re-Interprets and Re-Imagines Gil Scott-Heron’s Last Album

Gil Scott-Heron was a Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician, best known for his critically applauded and influential spoken word work in the ’70s and ’80s, which fused elements of jazz, blues and soul paired with lyrics that focused on race, poverty and other sociopolitical concerns. Much ink has been spilled on how Scott-Heron’s Pieces of a Man, which features his most famous, most well-known piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and Winter in America have influenced hip-hop and neo-soul.

In the last decade of  his life, Scott-Heron battled drug addiction and had several stints in prison;  however, he still managed to be a remarkably prolific artist, recording, writing and touring when he was able. Interestingly, the Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician’s last album, Richard Russell-produced  I’m New Here was first conceptualized in 2005 and was recorded in a series of recording sessions that started in January 2008. Released in 2010, the critically applauded I’m New Here was Scott-Heron’s first album in 13 years. Arguably, one of the most personal albums of his lengthy and influential career, I’m New Here featured introspective and confessional lyrics touching upon and expressing themes of regret, reconciliation, redemption, pride, dignity, defiance and acceptance paired with sparse arrangements and a minimalist production.

During the last year of his life, the influential, Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician finished work on a memoir and returned to the studio with Richard Russell to record stripped down versions of some of his best known material. Both the memoir and the material, which was released as Nothing New was released posthumously on what would have been Scott-Heron’s 65th birthday.

Makaya McCraven is a Paris-born Chicago-based jazz drummer, beatmaker and producer, who has released a run of critically applauded, genre-defying and re-defining albums that includes 2017’s Highly Rare, 2018’s Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) and 2018’s Universal Beings through Chicago-based International Anthem Records. Interestingly, Highly Rare caught the attention of XL Recordings‘ Richard Russell, who recruited the acclaimed Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer to re-imagine Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.  Slated for release this Friday through XL Recordings, We’re New Again marks the second full-length interpretation of the album, following Jamie xx’s remix, 2011’s We’re New Here. (Coincidentally, We’re New Again will be released exactly a decade to the day of the original’s release.)

McCraven’s We’re New Again places the original I’m New Here sessions in a new context: using samples collected from McCraven’s improvised live sessions with new wave Chicago jazz musicians and vintage samples taken from the acclaimed Paris-born, Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer’s parents’ recordings.  McCraven’s re-imagining of the material attempts to reconnect  the legendary and deeply influential artist with his birthplace and hometown, as well as a lineage of jazz and blues that perfectly compliments Scott-Heron’s imitable voice. 

Clocking in at about 74 seconds, I’m New Here album track “Where Did The Night Go” is a hauntingly sparse and uneasy track in which Scott-Heron’s grizzled baritone recites half-sung, half-spoken observations on insomnia, loneliness, desperation and writer’s block. Last month, I wrote about We’re New Again’s first single, “Where Did The Night Go” found McCraven pairing Scott-Heron’s voice with a sample from Stephen McCraven Quartet’s “Silhouette of Eric,” gorgeous, fluttering flute and thumping boom-bap meets bop jazz-like drumming.  McCraven’s take on the song creates a warmer vibe than the original while giving it a deceptively anachronistic sound, as though it could have been recorded during the Pieces of a Man or Winter in America sessions. 

I’m New Here’s album title track “I’m New Here” is a folksy-leaning track in which Scott-Heron’s grizzled baritone is paired with a gorgeous and easy-going strummed guitar, which gives the song a contemplative, autumnal feel. Knowing that the legendary artist died a year after the release of I’m New Here gives the track an aching sense of mortality, just under the surface. McCraven’s re-imagining of the song gives the material a dreamy and ethereal air, as Scott-Heron’s voice is paired with a shimmering harp arpeggios, squiggling blasts of keys, some expressive guitar lines and boom-bap like drumming. But along with that it finds McCraven and company making a vital connection between hip-hop, jazz and poetry while pointing out Scott-Heron’s momentous influence.