Released - September 2021
Label - Blue Note Records/UMG
It seemed drummer Makaya McCraven was destined to be a jazz star. French-born and Massachusetts raised, he comes from a family of musicians who surrounded him with their jazz peers. McCraven however would tell you that his skill and artistry run deeper than genetics and that despite living within the jazz community, he explored the genre through connecting it to the music he loved.
Whilst the discipline of jazz helped him evolve as a drummer, the bohemian raps of A Tribe Called Quest created McCraven’s sense of style. His high school band ‘Cold Duck Complex’ deftly merged hip-hop with jazz, in turn opening for now beyond legendary groups like Digable Planets and The Pharcyde.
Within jazz, drums ought to dictate far more than the tempo. They are throughout the form recognised by their characteristic differences and deft melodic sentiments. McCraven continues this tradition with gorgeous percussion arrangements that rebuke rigidity and are less so about time and more so on establishing a rhythm.
As a single, ‘Frank's Tune’ finds comfort in this independence. Reminiscent of the late J Dilla, the off-kilter snare to the untrained ear may sound a touch too early, late or too close to the kick drum. However, McCraven’s embracing of these alleged imperfections create a wonderful sense of the obtainable.
The woodwind and horns inspire a state of ease complementing each other through smooth assertiveness. The perfectly apt for the track guitar and flurried flute mirrors the unique approach to the rhythm and throughout, each instrument explores through conversation contributing ultimately to the head-nod brilliance of the track. The mantra over the introduction embodies the track and it would seem McCraven's approach to jazz.
"If you feel like patting your feet, pat your feet.
If you feel like clapping your hands, clap your hands.
If you feel like taking off your shoes, take off your shoes.
We are here to have a ball.”
It urges us to seek a joy that is too often frowned upon in jazz and through ‘Frank's Tune’ McCraven gently reinforces that jazz has the right to be whatever we call it - graciously unconcerned with the structures of yesterday. It’s enjoyable to see jazz artists embrace the nuance of R&B and hip hop and track by track McCraven is becoming known as not merely a jazz super talent, but a multi-genre artist, showcasing jazz as not just the music of reflection, but equally of joy.