Deciphering The Message
Drummer and producer Makaya McCraven has spent the past decade experimenting at the fringes of jazz and beatmaking, crafting a unique sound that sees him splicing recordings of live improvisations into new compositions. He’s often using his own compositions as source material himself, referencing the jazz-sampling methods of hip-hop producers in the process. On Deciphering the Message, McCraven’s debut for Blue Note, it isn’t his own work he is chopping up but rather the label’s extensive archives. The result is an astounding homage to the jazz lineage, as well as a continuation of its inventive ethos. Throughout, McCraven highlights Art Blakey’s group The Jazz Messengers, flipping saxophonist Hank Mobley’s “A Slice of the Top” into a boom-bap opener, while trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s “Sunset” is transmuted into a sludgy funk and guitarist Kenny Burrell’s “Autumn in New York” receives a new rhythmic shuffle. McCraven’s hand is subtle yet self-assured, adding to these compositions rather than subsuming them. He illustrates that if jazz is an improvised music, then any sense of tradition must encompass continual, intuited change. Perhaps that is the message to be heard.