Makaya McCraven Isn’t Interested in Saving Jazz

Makaya McCraven Isn’t Interested in Saving Jazz

Rolling Stone

Natalie Weiner, Reporter

Makaya McCraven in Chicago in October.
Makaya McCraven in Chicago in October.
Lyndon French for

Chicago-based drummer and bandleader on how he’s marrying the energy of intimate club performances with 21st-century electronic thinking

“‘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…

..In many ways, global jazz culture is the story of McCraven’s life. His father, jazz drummer Stephen McCraven — a Connecticut native who was mentored by avant-gardists Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef and Sam Rivers — and his mother, Hungarian folk singer Ágnes Zsigmondi, met in Paris, where McCraven was born. The family later moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, finding an intimate artistic community in the college town…

Read the entire interview here.

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