#funkyfriday — Makaya McCraven / "Gnawa"

Makaya McCraven is more than just a drummer. The self-described “beat scientist” is a child of the hip/hop era, but equally steeped in jazz. Born in Paris to a jazz drummer father and Hungarian folk singer mother, his exposure to the multiculti began in the womb. He grew up in Massachusetts, surrounded by family friends like Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef — music legends who also served as mentors.

As is the case with any true artist, it’s only natural that McCraven’s music reflects his diverse influences and environment. But his sound is not a pastiche of this and that, of jazz with a hip/hop beat and tinges of electronica, or hip/hop-flavored electronica with global elements and a touch of jazz. McCraven’s sound is all its own, and all of those things (and more) at once.

“Gnawa” (featuring Junius Paul on bass and Justefan on vibes) is a too-short, deeply swinging 2-minute vamp with a Moroccanroll bassline adorned by McCraven's scattershot snare melismatics. It comes from In the Moment — a collection edited down from 48 hours of live recordings made over a year and across 28 shows at the Bedford, the Chicago club where McCraven held down a residency. Along with recent work by BADBADNOTGOOD, Steve Lehman and Jaime Branch, these nineteen tracks of “organic beat music” show the way ahead in jazz.

The rich traditions of jazz are what initially drew me to it. Its open-mindedness and experimentation are what keep me tuned in. I love how McCraven’s music (and that of the others mentioned earlier), are expanding the possibilities for the genre ever-wider while still taking us back to the roots.

The way ahead is brightly lit.

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