makaya mccraven meets gil scott-heron in 2020
By Piotr Orlov
January 8, 2020
The recording studio is a crazy, mixed-up place when it comes to the spacetime continuum, upending some basic universal laws that, most times, shouldn’t be fucked with. But in 2020, it has blessed us with a new meet-up between drummer/producer Makaya McCraven and the legendary poet, spoken word artist and revolutionary thinker Gil Scott-Heron, who left this mortal coil in 2011. “Where Did the Night Go” is the first tune to drop off We’re New Again, a “reimagining” of vocals from Gil’s last album, under the care of Makaya’s MPC, with assistance from an all-star cast of McCraven’s regular jazz collaborators (folks like Jeff Parker, Brandee Younger, and Junius Paul, among many). Seemingly a Frankenstein monster of a project, New Again is far better than it has any right to be.
“Where Did the Night Go” is a perfect example of the care Makaya puts into this “reimagining,” one based on the evolving relationships between generations and their sounds. Gil’s words on “Night” are an evocation of writerly procrastination as a dreamscape — in some somnambulist states, the words just don’t come — of trying to compose a letter that just doesn’t come. Makaya version bases the whole thing on sample of the Stephen McCraven Quartet (his father’s band), with a prominent role in the sample played by the flute of Agnes Zimondi (who just happens to be Makaya’s mom). It is an absolutely lovely moment of music and words speaking across the universe and across unimpeachable barriers, saying something that plainspoken sentiment can’t.
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