Universal Beings by Makaya McCraven

Release date: October 26, 2018
Label: International Anthem Recording Co.

It seems it is drummers time! Drummers that are moving boundaries of different music genres into new realms. Well, at least in jazz, making that music something that becomes palatable and enjoyable to music fans that otherwise would stay away from it in big circles. At the moment, two names stand out – one is Jaimeo Brown with his combination of jazz, electronics, Indian music and samples of blues and works songs and Makaya McrCaven who is just releasing his new album Universal Beings.

McCraven’s concept in some ways coincides with Brown’s and in others stretches in different directions than Brown’s In general, and listening to the four ‘different’ sides’ of Universal Beings, McCraven concentrates on the ‘old’ and ‘new’ concept of beats. This was evident with his first album proper, In The Moment from 2015 and in his two ‘mixtapes’ Highly Rare from 2017 and Where We Come From issued in 2018, first being a sort of a jazz hip-hop suite and second a mix of live recordings made in London and Chicago.

Now, a jazz and hip-hop combination has been around for a while, as is the jazz/electronic beats one, but on Universal Beings McCraven expands on his ‘organic beat music’ he introduced on In The Moment. To put it simply, he reverses the process where all the new beat merchants have taken samples from ‘old’ jazz, particularly its spiritual jazz strand exemplified for example by Albert Ayler, Alice Coltrane and Lonnie ‘Liston Smith giving them a new rhythmic and electronic touch and takes these innovations and returns them back into, live, ‘organic’ music, as he says.

Frankly, the results are quite amazing. McCraven used four different sessions – two intimate live ones in New York and Chicago, and also practically live studio sessions in London and Los Angeles. While formally these are separated, the flow of the music is uniform and continuous, as any that works within the concept of spiritual jazz should be, where the ‘reformed’ beats keep twisting and turning, but never obstructing the music or eventual soloists but giving it a free-flowing feel that can appeal even to those listeners that are not very familiar with spiritual jazz.

To achieve this, McCraven has surrounded himself with quite an astounding array of companions, where harpist Brandee Younger, vibist Joel Ross and rising British sax player Shabaka Hutchings particularly exceed. The quality of music and playing is so high that it is very hard to distinguish when a certain player is in the picture and when not, Basically, it is new jazz for everybody. After all, it is also organic.

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