In These Times, the new album by percussionist, producer, and composer Makaya McCraven, has been in process since 2015. It’s the album McCraven’s been trying to make since he started making records, an appropriately career-defining body of work. The eleven-song suite was created over seven-plus years, as McCraven strived to fuse odd-meter compositions from his working songbook with orchestral, large-ensemble arrangements and the edit-heavy “organic beat music” he’s honed over the years. With contributions from over a dozen musicians and creative partners from his tight-knit circle of collaborators—including Jeff Parker, Junius Paul, Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, and Marquis Hill—In These Times highlights McCraven’s unique gift for collapsing space, destroying borders, and blending past, present, and future into poly-textural arrangements of post-genre, jazz-rooted 21st-century folk music.
Chicago-based percussionist, composer and producer Makaya McCraven releases his new album In These Times, on September 23, 2022 via International Anthem / Nonesuch / XL Recordings. The first offering from the new album is a song tiled “Seventh String,” which encapsulates the various musical dimensions present on McCraven’s new album, a career-defining body of work that is a remarkable new peak for the already-soaring McCraven.
In These Times is a collection of polytemporal compositions inspired as much by broader cultural struggles as McCraven’s personal experience as a product of a multinational, working class musician community. It’s the recording that he’s been trying to create for 7+ years, as it’s been consistently in process in the background while he’s put forth a prolific run of releases including: In The Moment (2015), Highly Rare (2017), Where We Come From (2018), Universal Beings (2018), We’re New Again (2020), Universal Beings E&F Sides (2020), and Deciphering the Message (2021). With contributions from over a dozen musicians and creative partners from his tight-knit circle of collaborators – including Jeff Parker, Junius Paul, Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, and Marquis Hill – the music was recorded in five different studios and four live performance spaces while McCraven engaged in extensive post-production work at home. Featuring orchestral, large ensemble arrangements interwoven with the signature “organic beat music” sound that’s become his signature, the album is an evolution and a milestone for McCraven, the producer. But moreover, it’s the strongest and clearest statement we’ve yet to hear from McCraven, the composer.
Profiled in the New York Times, Vice, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, the Guardian, and NPR, among other publications, Makaya and the music he makes today is what Passion of Weiss explains, “is part of a necessary conversation about the next evolution of the Black improvised music known colloquially as ‘jazz.’ He’s found the threads connecting the past with the present, and is either wrapping them with new colors and textures, or he’s plucking them gleefully like the strings of a grand instrument.”
McCraven, who has been aptly called a “cultural synthesizer” and “beat scientist,” has a unique gift for collapsing space, destroying borders and blending past, present, and future into poly-textural arrangements of post-genre, jazz-rooted 21st century folk music. In These Times encompasses his artistic ethos, his experiences, identity and lineage, while pushing his music to new heights.