Makaya McCraven

Makaya McCraven is a prolific drummer, composer and producer, who according to the New York Times, “has quietly become one of the best arguments for jazz’s vitality. His newest album, ‘In These Times,’ is the triumphant finale of a project seven-plus years in the making. It’s a pre-eminent addition to his acclaimed and extensive discography, and it’s the album he’s been trying to make since he started making records.”

After starting on the western Massachusetts music scene and co-founding the jazz-hip hop band Cold Duck Complex (ultimately opening for the Pharcyde, Digable Planets and the Wu-Tang Clan), he moved to Chicago in 2006. McCraven found himself immersed in both the creative and straight-ahead jazz scenes, proving his versatility, and along the way finding a community that mirrored the pulsating scene that birthed him artistically. Within five years, he had established a name for himself by gigging alongside scene stalwarts like Willie Pickens, Marquis Hill and Jeff Parker.

McCraven continued to hone his process of live improvisation and sampling with “Highly Rare” in 2017, as well as “Where We Come From” and “Universal Beings,” both released in 2018. His work has featured various esteemed players including Nubya Garcia and Shabaka Hutchings from London, Junius Paul and Tomeka Reid of Chicago, Anna Butters and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson from Los Angeles, and Brandee Younger and Dezron Douglas from New York.
He recently remixed Gil Scott-Heron’s final album, “I’m New Here,” for “We’re New Again: A Reimagining” (2020) by Makaya McCraven; issued “Universal Beings E+F Sides” (also in 2020), and delved into the venerable Blue Note Records catalog in 2021 for “Deciphering the Message.” Each project also employed new improvisations and sampling, helping to further cement his “beat scientist” moniker.

“In These Times” encompasses all he’s lived through, as well as his lineage, while also pushing the music forward. Music critic Jeff Weiss suggests that “McCraven’s work, both with younger players and the sounds of older recordings, is part of a necessary conversation about the next evolution of the Black-improvised music known colloquially as ‘jazz.’ He’s found the threads connecting the past with the present, and is either wrapping them with new colors and textures, or he’s plucking them gleefully like the strings of a grand instrument.”

McCraven concurs: “That is the tradition that I want to try to take part in. Being well-rooted, but walking into the future, is really what all of the leaders in this music have done that I admire. I think that resonates with people. Something that’s like how we know it, but is evolving. It’s just where I am at, where we’re at and the evolution of that, and that’s what I’m trying to be.”

Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.