5 Songs About: Makaya McCraven

With work currently underway for a brand new episode of our GetToKnow… series to showcase the music of drummer and producer Makaya McCraven, we thought we’d issue this minor tease into the Chicago-based artist’s phenomenal catalogue of music.  Boasting a slew of album releases as part of the Chicago-based label, International Anthem Recordings, alongside his most recent effort for Blue Note in ‘Deciphering The Message’, Makaya continually proves himself to be one of the leading and most innovative names in contemporary jazz music.

In true GetToKnow… fashion, these radio shows take an in-depth look at a musician or producer’s selection of music specifically for other artists so here is a 5 song selection looking at Makaya McCraven’s music outside of his own full-length projects that you should absolutely get to know all about…

1. ‘Source’ [Makaya McCraven Remix] by Nubya Garcia

Makaya McCraven and saxophonist Nubya Garcia have actually developed a strong catalogue of music releases together over the last few years with Garcia serving as a key contributor to previous McCraven releases ‘Universal Beings’ and ‘Where We Come From (Chicago X London Mixtape)’.  McCraven’s strong affections for the wealth of burgeoning UK jazz talent is well-known so his name added to the extensive list of contributors – alongside Mark de Clive-Lowe and Georgia Anne Muldrow – all keen to reimagine songs from Garcia’s Concord Records debut ‘Source’ was a notably exciting one gifting Garcia, as well as excited listeners, this gem of a remix.

2. ‘I’ll Take Care of You’ [Makaya McCraven Remix] by Gil Scott-Heron

To celebrate the ten year anniversary of Gil Scott-Heron’s final album release, ‘I’m New Here’, XL Recordings approached McCraven with the concept of reimagining the project in much the same way Jamie XX did in 2011.  With the Jamie XX version of the album (‘We’re New Here’) receiving significant praise and plaudits – particularly for his remix of this very same song – McCraven proved to be an equally inspired choice with his interpretations leading to some wonderful renditions as well.  Enlisting a range of artists to help tackle the music throughout including Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, Jeff Parker and Greg Spero amongst several others, McCraven’s ‘We’re New Again’ release again was drawn to the magic of the Bobby Bland 1959 original of ‘I’ll Take Care of You’ delivering one of the project’s many highlights.

3. ‘Dark Honey (4TheStorm)’ by Ashley Henry featuring Makaya McCraven

In another collaboration that was forged as part of the monumental ‘Universal Beings’ sessions, pianist Ashley Henry was recruited to form part of the London ensemble alongside some wonderful London-based talent.  The favour is promptly returned here however with McCraven securing himself a guest spot for this number on Henry’s ‘Beautiful Vinyl Hunter’ project in 2019.  Henry’s album boasts some fantastic names throughout but the allure of ‘Dark Honey’ in this instance hosting an ensemble including Henry, McCraven, bassist Daniel Casimir, trumpeter Jaimie Branch and vocalist Sahra Zoe Ahmed Gure all on one track is too great for anyone to pass up.

4. ‘Cloud Jam’ by Greg Spero & The Chicago Experiment

Pianist Greg Spero and McCraven can cite an incredibly extensive collaborations catalogue developed over the years with each artist serving as a chief contributor to several of each others projects.  For this entry within Ropeadope’s ‘Experiment’ series – which has seen the series celebrate music from cities including Philadelphia, Harlem and Detroit – Spero helms an elite array of predominantly Chicago-based talent including Jeff Parker, Joel Ross, Marquis Hill and of course Makaya McCraven on drums to wave the flag for Chicago’s boundlessly talented artists.

 5. ‘Ask Them (The Children)’ by Tensei featuring Yaw & Najite Olokun Prophecy

Once again waving the flag for Chicago-based talent, this time is the production duo of Chris Kramer and Midas Wells, otherwise known as Tensei.  Their stellar 2019 project, ‘Constellate’, released through Germany’s Tokyo Dawn Records, served up an exciting melting pot of musical styles with a sound rooted in hip-hop just as much as it was in jazz and the spectrum of styles in between.  Makaya McCraven blessed the project by appearing on two tracks including the afro-centric rhythms of ‘Ask Them’, one of the standouts of the release.

Imran Mirza

I love discovering something I've never heard before and sharing that feeling with like-minded people who embrace the music in the same way. You're welcome to join me on more of my musical misadventures on Blue-in-Green:RADIO. www.blueingreenradio.com

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