Makaya McCraven (feat. Nubya Garcia)
Jazz | Funk | Electronic
premiere: makaya mccraven’s ‘suite haus’ swings hard
By Piotr Orlov
October 2, 2018
Count 2018 as one of those occasional years when jazz regenerates its context by stealing away from the rarefied and insular spaces of older crowds, straight towards the club and the young ears of people who’ll move to it — with London and Chicago among the movement’s hotbeds. On his new album, Universal Beings, Windy City-based drummer/producer Makaya McCraven creates collisions between the “new jazz” epicenters, recording a slew of tracks on which musicians from those locales (as well as Los Angeles and New York) initiate grooves, which McCraven then takes back to the lab Madlib-style, and chops up into dance-floor burners.
Universal Beings by Makaya McCraven
“Suite Haus” is one of the album’s London sides, and features an all-star line-up of the city’s exploding group of improvisers, with saxophonist Nubya Garcia, bassist Daniel Casimir and Rhodes player Ashley Henry rounding out the quartet. Led by Garcia’s deeply melodic tenor line and multiple loops of McCraven moving all over his kit, it smokes like a classic (but contemporary AF) re-edit of a Oneness of Juju or Osibisa track, the kind of thing crate-digging DJs and producers will flock to.
L-R: Nubya Garcia, Daniel Casimir, Ashley Henry and Makaya McCraven (photo: Fabrice Bourgelle)
It is also a perfect exemplar of McCraven’s process — take the raw parts of a great jam, and post-produce them into something greater — as well as an insight to how today’s improvisers engage with recordings versus live performances.
“The intro section [of “Suite Haus”] was just Nubya playing a melody,” Makaya told AFROPUNK. “We were setting up a groove, an African kind of vibe with this triple kind of feel and rim-shots which gives it a woody, organic sound. And then when it flips to, like, a house track, that’s where there’s a lot of tight chopping and then a bit of overdubbing to develop the track. I called it ‘Suite Haus’ because after that first little triplet section, which sounded very sweet (major diatonic-y, and simple), the second section becomes a little more house, darker, grittier. That was really the meat of that piece, the house section, so to speak.
“When it gets to that second part, that’s when the track starts to bump, and you start to get that hard, looping feeling of contemporary sound of electronic music because of the tighter chopping, and after that we’ve kind of transcended into a different realm. Which is something I really like about that track.
“That’s the way I like to think of it: When you’re in the room with us, that’s an organic space. When I take that and re-contextualize it [with studio post-production], then what we’re listening to is not just being in the room with the musicians, but a world that doesn’t exist, a sonic space. That’s one of the challenges to performing this music. Unless you come and see me doing an electronic set, it will never sound exactly like the recording. From a jazz musicians’ perspective, now we’re gonna take the nuts and bolts of the thing that I produced, and we’re gonna reinterpret that through the lens of performing musicians.”
Welcome to jazz, circa 2018.
Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings is out on International Anthem on October 26th.
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