Makaya McCraven

Makaya McCraven is a prolific drummer, composer and producer.

His newest album, In These Times, is the triumphant finale of a project 7+ years in the making. It’s a preeminent addition to his already-acclaimed and extensive discography, and it’s the album he’s been trying to make since he started making records.

In These Times, a collection of polytemporal compositions inspired as much by broader cultural struggles as McCraven’s personal experience as a product of a multinational, working class musician community, is the recording that McCraven has been trying to create for 7+ years, as it’s been slowly cooking in the background while his other works were released. He began recording In These Times seven years ago, but “for whatever reason, Universal Beings just came to fruition much quicker. It just took more time for this to mature into everything it’s become. With the success of Universal Beings and the Universal Beings concerts that we did (with Red Bull) in Chicago at South Shore Cultural Center and le poisson rouge in New York, I had an opportunity to realize the record not as a collection of four sides of trios and quartets, but I turned that record as a performance into a 10 to 12-person concert, and that experience ended up evolving my approach to In These Times.”

In These Times encompasses all he’s lived through, as well as his lineage, while also pushing the music forward. Music critic Passion of the Weiss suggested that “McCraven’s work, both with younger players and the sounds of older recordings, is part of a necessary conversation about the next evolution of the Black improvised music known colloquially as ‘jazz.’ He’s found the threads connecting the past with the present, and is either wrapping them with new colors and textures, or he’s plucking them gleefully like the strings of a grand instrument.” McCraven concurs: “To me, that is the tradition that I want to try to take part in. Being well-rooted, but walking into the future, is really what all of the leaders in this music have done that I admire. And I think that resonates with people. Something that’s like how we know it, but is evolving… It’s just where I am at, where we’re at, and the evolution of that, and that’s what I’m trying to be.”

– Words by Ayana Contreras, June 2022

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