Makaya McCraven


Makaya McCraven photo by David Marques.

Friday, April 19, 7 & 9:30pm
Royal Room
5000 Rainier Ave S

Chicago-based jazz drummer, producer, and “beat-scientist” Makaya McCraven recycles sounds from his own live improvisations to make fresh hip-hop infused recordings. McCraven’s rhythms—influenced by free-jazz, African dance bands, Hungarian folk music, indie rock, and a deep history of “straight ahead” jazz—are flipped, layered, and spliced together into something wholly inventive and radically communal. On Friday April 19th, McCraven returns to the Royal Room for two shows with an incredible Chicago quartet: Greg Spero (piano); Matt Gold (guitar); and longtime collaborator Junius Paul (bass). 

This tour celebrates McCraven’s hyped October 2018 release, Universal Beings. For the finished album, McCraven gathered years of recorded sessions from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and London, electronically condensing, looping, and reworking them into full tracks. Universal Beings features young jazz luminaries like horn player Shabaka Hutchings, jazz harpist Brandee Younger, cellist Tomeka Reid, and underground jazz guitar staple Jeff Parker. McCraven’s process has been compared to Teo Macero’s post-production edits of Miles Davis sessions during Miles’ electric period on albums like On the Corner. It remains, though, entirely modern and future-reaching. “Universal Beings is a brilliant… and, yet easy to listen to… seductive album,” says Jim DeRogatis. (Sound Opinions, Chicago) 

Born in Paris, young McCraven was exposed to the world of jazz through the mentorship of legendary saxophonists Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef, both friends of his drummer father. His skills as a musician flourished as he worked under other jazz greats, sharing the stage with Charles Neville and Lionel Loueke. McCraven’s debut album Split Decisions (2012), garnered solid praise, but it was In The Moment (2015) that introduced the world to his unique brand of “organic beat music.” 

A master of collaboration, McCraven has selected a touring group aptly suited for the new music ritual he reigns in. McCraven’s pianist Greg Spero is known in the jazz world for his work touring with the Miles Davis Electric Band, a multigenerational all-star collective led by Davis band alumnus Vincent Wilburn Jr. (Davis’ nephew). Spero has been equally successful in creating music content for TV and film and touring with pop acts The Weeknd and Halsey. Spero’s newest acclaimed project is his jazz band Spirit Fingers, a dynamic ensemble of uber-talented young musicians. 

Guitarist and composer Matt Gold is fresh in his career, already with appearances on NBC, FOX, and NPR under his belt. Gold is one-half of duo Sun Speak, with drummer Nate Friedman. Together, the two musicians craft an innovative writing style that explores composing music wholly from previous session improvisations, not dissimilar from McCraven’s methods. 

The musical literacy of bassist Junius Paul is unavoidable. The internationally established instrumentalist has shared the stage with artists including Wynton Marsalis, Curtis Fuller, Donald Byrd, Fred Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, Kahil El’Zabar, Chico DeBarge, KRS-One, Dee Alexander, Roy Hargrove, and Corey Wilkes. 

Defying easy categorization, McCraven—and those who’ll back him on the Seattle stage—are artists fluent in a number of categories and curious about all of the rest. In a new era of genre-bending music, McCraven seems to invent categories of his own, which has led to the New York Times dubbing him “one of the best arguments for jazz’s vitality.” –Halynn Blanchard 

Advance tickets are $20 adults, $18 Earshot members and senior citizens, $10 students and military, and are available at earshot.org. Day of show tickets are $25 adults, $23 Earshot members and seniors, $10 students and military. 


Posted on

March 26, 2019