Makaya McCraven – Deciphering The Message

  1. A Slice Of The Top (Hank Mobley)
  2. Sunset (Kenny Dorham)
  3. When Your Lover Has Gone (Einar Aaron Swan)
  4. Ecaroh (Horace Silver)
  5. Tranquillity (Ben Hutcherson)
  6. Wail Bait (Quincy Jones)
  7. Coppin‘ The Haven (Kenny Drew)
  8. Frank’s Tune (Frank R. Strozier)
  9. Autumn In New York (Vernon Duke)
  10. Monaco (Kenny Dorham)
  11. Jin (Wayne Shorter)
  12. F.D. (Jack Wilson Jr.)
  13. Black Rhythm Happening (Eddie Gale Stevens)




Makaya McCraven – bass, drums, percussion, synthesizer, keyboards, guitar (12), kalimba (12)

Joel Ross – vibraphone (2, 3, 4, 6, 9)

Marquis Hill – trumpet (5, 9, 10)

Greg Ward – alto saxophone (5, 6, 12)

De’Sean Jones – tenor saxophone (5, 9, 10, 13) & flute (6, 8, 9, 13)

Matt Gold – guitar (3, 5, 7, 12)

Jeff Parker – guitar (2), (8), (10)

Junius Paul – percussion (2) & bass (3, 6, 10, 11, 12)

Produced by Makaya McCraven

Includes original contributions by: Hank Mobley – tenor saxophone (1, 2), Lee Morgan – trumpet (1, 3), McCoy Tyner – piano (1), Kenny Dorham – trumpet (2, 10), Philly Joe Jones – drums (2, 6), Art Blakey – drums (3, 4, 9, 11), Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone (3, 11), Horace Silver – piano (4), Freddie Hubbard – trumpet (5), Herbie Hancock – piano (5), Clifford Brown – trumpet (6), Heath – bass (6), Dexter Gordon – tenor saxophone (7), Donald Byrd – trumpet (7), Lee Morgan – trumpet (8, 11), Kenny Burrell – guitar (9, 10), Roy Ayers – vibraphone (12), Elvin Jones – drums (13), and many more


Ein aktuelles Album, auf dem Größen wie Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown, Dexter Gordon, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell und Elvin Jones zu hören sind, ist kein Fiebertraum von Blue-Note-Fans, sondern das Label-Debüt des angesagten Jazz-Multitalentes Makaya McCraven.

Mit “Deciphering The Message” ist Makaya McCraven bei Blue Note Records ein Einstand nach Maß geglückt. In bester Label-Tradition zollt der in Chicago beheimatete Schlagzeuger

hier der Jazzgeschichte Tribut, während er der Musik gleichzeitig einen absolut zeitgenössischen Anstrich verpasst. Dafür stellte er ein Programm aus klassischen Blue-Note-Aufnahmen von u. a. Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon, Clifford Brown, Kenny Burrell, Bobby Hutcherson, Jack Wilson und Eddie Gale zusammen. Erst sampelte und remixte er diese Tracks, um ihnen dann mit seiner jungen, hochtalentierten Band (feat. Vibraphonist Joel Ross, Trompeter Marquis Hill, die Saxofonisten Greg Ward und De’Sean Jones, die Gitarristen Matt Gold und Jeff Parker sowie Bassist Junius Paul) zusätzlich einen aufregend modernen Dreh zu verleihen. Obwohl Grundlagen der Aufnahmen aus verschiedenen Blue-Note-Epochen stammen, klingt “Deciphering The Message” modern und wie aus einem Guss

Auf zahlreichen Alben und Mixtapes hat Makaya McCraven schon seine Beherrschung des Loops bewiesen, ähnlich wie die berühmtesten Beatmaker des Hip-Hop wie J Dilla und Madlib. Aber McCraven war schon immer ein kollaborativer Künstler, der die Energie gemeinsamer Sessions der Isolation des einsamen Arbeitens im Tonstudio vorzieht. Und: „Ich möchte Musik machen, die Menschen verbindet, sie gemeinsam irgendwohin transportiert. Wenn es mir zusätzlich gelingt, sie näher an die Quellen dieser Musik zu bringen, habe ich mein Ziel erreicht.“


McCraven comes to this project having remixed Gil Scott-Heron’s final album, 2010’s I’m New Here, into an equally emotive LP titled We’re New Again that reimagined the poet’s wrestling with loss, daily existence and regret. Though Scott-Heron’s distinctive baritone remained the focal point, McCraven crafted an album closer to the vocalist’s natural aesthetic of soul and jazz. For Deciphering The Message, McCraven wanted to maintain the integrity of Blue Note’s original music, but with a modern bounce, appealing to those who might only know the label from their grandparents’ old vinyl collection.

Yet these artists weren’t always legends; on purpose, McCraven catches them on their way up. “I wanted to focus on a little bit of the older catalog and a certain era,” he says. “From the beginning, I was inspired by this idea of these young musicians going through the bands, almost like a rite of passage.” In those days, it was common to hear these artists play similar melodies in different groups across various records and put their own spin on the genre’s standards. McCraven wanted to explore the concept of sampling within the scope of traditional jazz. “To me, it’s all part of a broader thread,” he says. “I picked tracks that were speaking to me, but it all came together in that way.”

While Deciphering The Message collects songs from several years of Blue Note history, it plays like a continuous set taking place in one show at one venue. “Pee Wee” Marquette, Birdland Jazz Club’s master of ceremonies from 1949 to 1965, narrates this album, and his inclusion places the LP somewhere on the timeline between jazz music’s transition from bebop to hard bop. There’s a prevalent cool to this album, which won’t surprise anyone who’s followed McCraven’s work to this point. But where the records In The Moment and Universal Beings captured what was happening in more recent landscapes, this one scores the period that informs McCraven’s art. This juxtaposition is most prevalent on “Tranquillity” (AKA “Corner of the World”) where, following a sampled intro from Marquette, McCraven comes in with contemporary drum taps and layered horns that pull Bobby Hutcherson’s “Tranquillity”—from the vibraphonist’s 1965 album Components—into this century.

Elsewhere, pianist Jack Wilson’s hard bop cut “Frank’s Tune”—from 1967’s Easterly Winds—is remade into “De’Jeff’s Tune, an ‘80s R&B-inspired arrangement with a two-stepping dance groove, wafting guitar chords courtesy of Jeff Parker, and delicate flute from De’Sean Jones. Another gem of this set is “Autumn In New York” (AKA “Spring In Chicago”), an almost-six-minute triumph that shifts Kenny Burrell’s original—from the guitarist’s 1958 album Blue Lights, Vol. 1—from a sauntering romantic ballad to a hypnotic stomp of muted horns and soft vibes, perfectly capturing a walk around Lake Michigan. With the song “A Slice Of The Top” (AKA “Sliced Off The Top”)—a remake of the title track from a 1966 Hank Mobley session—McCraven traded the solos between the saxophonist and trumpeter Lee Morgan and put more pronounced drums on top of the mix. “When piecing everything together, I wanted to create a narrative that made the listener feel like they were falling into this space or a movement,” McCraven says. “I was really trying to make a record out of it, not just a series of tracks.”

McCraven started compiling the album at the beginning of 2020, before the onset of COVID-19. “We were gonna do some big concerts and touring,” he remembers, “and I started sampling things and conceiving some of the process because I wanted to take some time with it.” Once the pandemic hit, and concerts and travel were shut down, he took some time away and relocated with his family to Hawaii. There, he picked the tracks he wanted to reimagine and finished the record back in Chicago, where he reconnected with his go-to team of musicians and added new live elements to these classic songs. McCraven has always been a collaborative artist who prefers the energy of in-person sessions over the isolation of creating alone. That’s no different here: Deciphering The Message features vibraphonist Joel Ross, trumpeter Marquis Hill, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, guitarists Matt Gold and Jeff Parker, bassist Junius Paul, and De’Sean Jones on tenor saxophone and flute. “There’s a comradery and social aspect to the music,” McCraven says of this album and his creative method overall. “To me that’s inspiring and in the spirit of collaboration. There are bandleaders, but the collective of individual voices and sounds and the way they influence each other, that’s the fabric of what makes a scene.”

In that way, Deciphering The Message connects the past and present, proving that musicians become legends by trekking the same roads with like-minded creators all moving toward the same goal. The cohort of McCraven, Parker, Paul, Ross and Hill is no different than, say, Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, which aimed to simply create good music—that it became cornerstone art was a plus. To that end, McCraven hopes the album is both educational and an outright good listen. “I always want to make music that will connect with people in one way, where it makes them nod or feel something or transport them somewhere,” he says. “I also hope this makes them check out the source of this music if they have it. The music that we’re making now is part of the same route and is connected, so I want to honor tradition and release something that people can vibe to.”



Media Promotion (Promotion Süd, West & Nord)

Rosita Falke, Tel: 040 – 413 545 05

Blue Note Records / Universal Music

CD 06024 3814472 3 / LP 06024 3814473 0

VÖ: 19.11.2021


07.11.22 Köln Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld

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