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. There’s a lot to unpack in Universal Beings, his latest project.
Recorded not only in Los Angeles but also in New York, Chicago, and London — four metro areas shaping the contour of improvised music, now as ever — the album has each session taking up one side of the LP: New York on side 1, Chicago on side 2, then London and L.A. The shift from one locale to the next is subtle, because of a certain unity of purpose and, surely, the careful work of streamlining all of this material into a coherent form. Informed by ambient and hip hop elements as well as state-of-the-art jazz hyperfluency, Universal Beings suggests both the spark of discovery and the obsessive man behind it, sculpturing art through organic beat music.
Makaya worked closely with the label 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., the friends & friends-of-friends that Makaya was able to enlist are top tier players across the board. Nubya Garcia. Shabaka Hutchings. Daniel Casimir. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. In each of the 22 songs that compose the album we can hear unbelievable talent. Infinite talent, with Makaya as a common denominator. Collectively they make an inspiring display of the organic global inter-related network of the African American music tradition of in 2018. Jazz.
Newly released in different formats by International Anthem, we always give our special reference to the vinyl. Universal Beings is a work of art that surely we will appreciate for years to come, always finding new details, new messages. It’s an album that reinvents itself each time is played. Makaya McCraven is its creator and drummer.