Drummer Makaya McCraven has always been a bit of a rabble-rouser. He mixes audio from his live gigs with studio overdubs in intricately layered tracks that feel like jazz approached with a DJ’s sensibility. Like McCraven’s 2020 Gil Scott-Heron tribute, We’re New Again (XL Recordings), last year’s Deciphering the Message remixes snippets from a source outside his band—this time the hefty catalog of Blue Note Records, one of the towering tastemakers of jazz, with a special focus on material by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Blue Note also released Deciphering, making McCraven the first Chicagoan in more than a decade to sign to the legacy jazz label. The album follows in the footsteps of other sample-happy Blue Note experiments from the 1990s and 2000s (Madlib’s Shades of Blue, for example, or the label-released compilation The New Groove). For Deciphering the Message, McCraven selected Blue Note tracks and diced them up, shuffling them into new grooves often animated by terse supporting motifs. “Autumn in New York,” derived from guitarist Kenny Burrell’s version of the standard off Blue Lights (1958), trades balladic sweep for a skipping soliloquy based on a petite guitar motif, and McCraven’s take on Horace Silver’s “Ecaroh” builds a funky pyramid from the pianist’s chromatic hook. At his upcoming shows at Lincoln Hall, McCraven will riff on tracks from Deciphering as well as from his back catalog, accompanied by five of his seven compatriots from the album: bassist Junius Paul, saxophonists Greg Ward and De’Sean Jones, trumpeter Marquis Hill, and guitarist Matt Gold. Think of them as remixing the remixes—all live and always a surprise.
Makaya McCraven, Jeremy Cunningham & Dustin Laurenzi, Fri 5/27, 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, $25, $20 in advance, 18+
Makaya McCraven, Mxmrys, Sat 5/28, 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, $25, $20 in advance, 18+