“‘Is jazz dead?’ is a stupid question,” says drummer and bandleader Makaya McCraven over beers at a Lower East Side bar that is, fittingly, playing a selection of 1930s and ’40s-era jazz cuts. “If you have to ask the same question for 50 years, it becomes a rhetorical question. When did it die?”

Those who know McCraven’s work would likely reach a similar conclusion. Critically acclaimed releases like In the Moment (2015) and Highly Rare (2017) — both made up entirely of live material — put the heat and vitality of an intimate jazz club into a distinctly 21st century mode of brainy beat music, edited down to their searching, abstract highlights. They gave McCraven the kind of jazz-vanguard cred also recently assigned to artists like Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Shabaka Hutchings, all of whom have earned some degree of crossover success over the past decade thanks in part to their ability to tap into hip-hop and R&B audiences. Despite the fact that these artists emerged at different times and with different aesthetics, each has been presented as the face of a jazz “revival” or “resurgence” — a necessary spark to an otherwise moribund genre. But McCraven, 35, would prefer that listeners don’t call it a comeback.

“It’s like, gag me,” he says of the idea that jazz needs saving. Part of the inspiration behind his latest album, Universal Beings (due out October 26th on International Anthem) was the music’s current vitality. McCraven recorded the project with four different ensembles, in four different cities: New York, Los Angeles, London and Chicago, his adopted hometown. [Rolling Stone]

The above quote is an excerpt of a recent Rolling Stone feature on jazz drummer/producer Makaya McCraven that was published shortly before the release of his great new album Universal Beings. The album came out this past Friday (10/26) via International Anthem, and it's deservedly been picking up a lot of acclaim, including from -- as Rolling Stone points out -- hip hop and R&B audiences. There's a definite hip hop feel to the album, and hints of some modern electronic music too, but it's also clear that Makaya is also a student of the classics. As evidenced by that Rolling Stone interview, he's just as quick to talk about Miles Davis as he is to praise Madlib and Flying Lotus.

As mentioned, the album was recorded in Chicago, NYC, LA, and London (the NYC location was Ridgewood venue H0l0), and it features several guests from the various locations, including Sons of Kemet leader Shabaka Hutchings, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Nubya Garcia, Jeff Parker, Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, Dezron Douglas, Tomeka Reid, Junius Paul, Daniel Casimir, Ashley Henry, Carlos Niño, Anna Butterss, and Josh Johnson. With 22 songs that clock in at just over an hour and a half, it's a very overwhelming album and there's so much to unpack on it, but it's well worth your time. You can stream the whole thing below.

Makaya has several Europe/UK dates coming up, followed by two Red Bull Music-presented U.S. shows where he'll be performing the music of Universal Beings along with several of the album's guests. The shows take place in two of the cities Makaya recorded the album, Chicago and NYC. The Chicago show is on November 29 at South Shore Cultural Center with Jeff Parker, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Carlos Niño, Brandee Younger, Nubya Garcia, Junius Paul, Joel Ross, Dezron Douglas, Josh Johnson, and a DJ set by Ayana Contreras (tickets); and the NYC show is on December 2 at Le Poisson Rouge with Shabaka Hutchings, Dezron Douglas, Brandee Younger, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Jeff Parker, Nubya Garcia, Joel Ross, Carlos Niño, Josh Johnson, Junius Paul, and Malik Abdul-Rahmaan (tickets).

All of Mayaka McCraven's tour dates are listed below.

Makaya McCraven -- 2018 Tour Dates
Fri, NOV 02 ÜBERJAZZ Festival Hamburg, Germany
Sat, NOV 03 Jazzfest x J.A.W Berlin, Germany
Mon, NOV 05 International Anthem In Paris - New Morning Paris, France
Tue, NOV 06 International Anthem In Paris - New Morning Paris, France
Thu, NOV 08 YUCA Cologne, Germany
Tue, NOV 13 24 Kitchen Street Liverpool, United Kingdom
Wed, NOV 14 Band on the Wall Greater Manchester, United Kingdom
Thu, NOV 15 Nuejazz Festival Nuremberg, Germany
Fri, NOV 16 Super Sonic Festival Amsterdam Amsterdam, Netherlands
Sat, NOV 17 Ancienne Belgique - AB Brussels, Belgium
Sun, NOV 18 DR Koncerthuset København, Denmark
Tue, NOV 20 Sala CLAMORES Madrid, Spain
Wed, NOV 21 Fasching Stockholm, Sweden
Thu, NOV 22 BIRD Rotterdam, Netherlands
Fri, NOV 23 Sugar Club Dublin Dublin, Ireland
Sat, NOV 24 Chicago X London: Makaya McCraven + Nubya Garcia + Guests London, United Kingdom
Thu, NOV 29 Red Bull Music Presents: Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings at South Shore Cultural Center Chicago, IL
Sun, DEC 02 Red Bull Music Presents: Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings at Le Poisson Rouge New York, NY

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