Album: Makaya McCraven – In These Times

From the mastermind of beat scientist Makaya McCraven comes the career-defining album In These Times, a stunning musical display of organic beat music carefully created over seven years of work by the Chicago-based percussionist, composer, and producer. McCraven’s work simultaneously ushers in a new wave of jazz music while paying tributes to the roots of the genre.

The album begins with a sound you’ll likely produce on your own when you reach the end – applause. Within the first minute, we hear the only vocals of the record share its theme: “I never want to be known as anybody opposed to progress,” the voice says. McCraven never will be. The eponymous track continues with back and forth from percussively chaotic to dreamy and melodic, a motif heard throughout the entire album.

We have the pleasure of hearing what jazz is to McCraven, and we gain insight as to what the future of jazz is with new technology. In These Times is a reminder that we don’t have to reserve synthesisers for pop artists – any musician can make good use of it, and if their work is even remotely close in quality to McCraven’s, more artists should.

If you worry the album strays too far from pure jazz – don’t. Listen to tracks like “Lullaby,” a song full of beautiful instrumentational riffs, and “This Place That Place,” a fabulous example of how new and old can be married to produce something jazz fans of any age can appreciate.

In These Times is an epic soundscape few are capable of engineering. Jazz is about pushing boundaries and reminding us that music can be whatever we want it to be, which is exactly what this album does. Some tracks, like the lead and “High Fives,” contain more traditional elements of the genre, like sax and piano riffs and high hats, but each song on the record is imbued with the modernity that makes McCraven such an innovator. New and fresh, classic and ageless, In These Times is exactly what jazz music needed.

Acacia Deadrick

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