Universal Beings - Makaya McCraven
Universal Beings - Makaya McCraven

Universal Beings

Makaya McCraven

IARC0022

October 26 2018

Format: Vinyl CD Digital

Paris-born, New England-raised, long-time Chicago-residing Makaya McCraven has been at the forefront of genre-redefining movements in jazz since 2015, when he introduced the world to his unique brand of ‘organic beat music’ on the breakout album In The Moment. Culled, cut, post-produced & re-composed by Makaya using recordings of free improvisation he collected over dozens of live sessions in Chicago, through incubation & experimentation In The Moment established a procedural blueprint that he has since been sharpening & developing.

Honing this process on narrower sets of source material, Makaya followed up In The Moment with 2 mixtape releases – 2017’s Highly Rare, a lo-fi free-jazz-meets-hip-hop suite he made from a live 4-track recording, and June 2018’s Where We Come From (CHICAGOxLONDON Mixtape), which he produced using live recordings from London jazz hub Total Refreshment Centre (captured at a showcase called CHICAGOxLONDON).

Now, after 4+ years of refining his approach, Makaya McCraven puts forth an ambitious new work – Universal Beingsa culmination of concepts conceived by In The Moment, and his most elegant & articulated work yet. Spurred by a desire to connect with old friends & new collaborators in places where similar spirits & diasporic jazz innovations are thriving, Makaya worked with International Anthem across late 2017 & early 2018 to setup intimate live sessions in New York & Chicago, and pop-up “studio” sessions in London & Los Angeles. Though the contexts and logistics were D.I.Y. (as they almost always are with IARC), the friends & friends-of-friends that Makaya was able to enlist are top tier players across the board. Some might call them super groups of “new” jazz musicians from their respective cities, with Makaya as a common denominator. But more importantly, collectively they make an inspiring display of the organic global inter-connectedness of the Black American music tradition in 2018.

The first of the sessions was in New York, in the cavernous concrete basement of H0l0 in Ridgewood, Queens, where Makaya improvised with harpist Brandee Younger (Moses Sumney, Lauryn Hill) for the first time, along with his old friend from N.E., Dezron Douglas (bassist for Pharaoh Sanders, Ravi Coltrane), and NY-residing Chicago expats Joel Ross (vibraphone) & Tomeka Reid (cello). Opting to setup in a corner of the front bar instead of onstage, huddled together the group created “bristling, bulbous music with an electric pulse,” as described by Giovanni Russonello in his New York Times piece about the “Best Live Jazz Performances of 2017.”

Just days after the H0l0 session, the second session was recorded live at International Anthem’s Chicago HQ Co-Prosperity Sphere, assembled by Makaya to seize a rare opportunity to make sound with saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (who was in Chicago from London to perform with Louis Moholo-Moholo). The full group for the gig again included Tomeka Reid on cello, and was completed by Makaya’s home-town low-end lynchpin Junius Paul (bassist for Roscoe Mitchell, recent addition to the Art Ensemble of Chicago).

The third session took place in London, an afternoon hit (before soundcheck of the aforementioned CHICAGOxLONDON showcase) in the upstairs studio of Total Refreshment Centre, where Makaya was joined for 2 hours of free playing by 3 musicians he had never worked with prior – saxophonist Nubya Garcia, bassist Daniel Casimir, and pianist Ashley Henry.

And the final of the four sessions was setup in the garage behind guitarist Jeff Parker’s house in Los Angeles County, a small space where somehow Makaya fit himself and five other musicians – Parker on guitar, violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (Flying Lotus, Thundercat), percussionist Carlos Niño (Dexter Story, Jamire Williams), bassist Anna Butterss, and saxophonist Josh Johnson (Kiefer, Esperanza Spaulding).

In the months following, the improvised recordings from all four sessions were post-produced, edited & arranged by Makaya into four dynamic suites, which he divided & sequenced contextually & chronologically (i.e. on vinyl, the album is split by city per side of the LP, starting with the New York side). Physically spanning national & international borders to create an album that musically spans deep spiritual jazz meditations, pulsing post-bop grooves & straight-ahead boom-bap, Makaya McCraven defies the simplifications of revisionism & regionalism while celebrating the sounds, settings & stories that define the provenance of his work. Universal Beings projects an all-encompassing message of unity, peace & power by embracing transcendence in all its expressions.

 

Recorded & Mixed by David Allen & Dave Vettraino
Artwork by Damon Locks
Insert Portrait by Fabrice Bourgelle
Insert Design by Craig Hansen
Produced by Makaya McCraven
Executive Production by Scott McNiece

Tracks 1-6 (New York Side) recorded live @ H0L0, 
Ridgewood, Queens, NY, August 29th, 2017. 
Brandee Younger (harp) 
Joel Ross (vibraphone) 
Tomeka Reid (cello) 
Dezron Douglas (double bass) 
Makaya McCraven (drums) 

Tracks 7-11 (Chicago Side) recorded live @ Co-Prosperity Sphere, 
Bridgeport, Chicago, IL, September 2nd, 2017. 
*Shabaka Hutchings (tenor saxophone) 
Tomeka Reid (cello) 
Junius Paul (double bass) 
Makaya McCraven (drums) 

Tracks 12-16 (London Side) recorded @ Total Refreshment Studios, 
Stoke Newington, London, UK, October 19th, 2017. 
Nubya Garcia (tenor saxophone) 
**Ashley Henry (Rhodes piano) 
Daniel Casimir (double bass) 
Makaya McCraven (drums) 

Tracks 17-22 (Los Angeles Side) recorded @ Jeff Parker's house, 
Altadena, Los Angeles County, CA, January 30th, 2018. 
Josh Johnson (alto saxophone) 
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (violin) 
Jeff Parker (guitar) 
Anna Butterss (double bass) 
Carlos Niño (percussion) 
Makaya McCraven (drums) 

*Shabaka Hutchings appears courtesy of Verve Label Group
**Ashley Henry appears courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited