When: Thu., Aug. 2, 6:30 p.m. 2012
In less than five years, Makaya McCraven has established himself as one of Chicago's most versatile and in-demand drummers—among his high-profile gigs, he plays Afropop with Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, mainstream postbop with guitarist Bobby Broom, and avant-garde jazz with trumpeter Corey Wilkes. He just released his first album as a leader, Split Decision (Chicago Sessions), whose ten tunes include seven McCraven originals. It's a trio session with pianist Andrew Toombs and electric bassist Tim Seisser, and I'm not crazy about either of them in this context—their playing is fussy, with a bit too much fusion in it, and they seem to bring the same tendencies out in McCraven. I've seen him drum in other settings often enough to know what he can do, though, and at Friday's release party (see below) the trio will be joined by two first-rate guest saxophonists, former Chicagoan Greg Ward and New Yorker Marcus Strickland—which ought to require everyone else to settle down and make room, instead of overdoing it with unnecessary notes. Tonight McCraven debuts an even more ambitious project called Roots of Routes, which seeks to tie together his formative experiences as the son of two musicians—his father is veteran jazz drummer Steve McCraven, who's worked with the likes of Marion Brown, Yusef Lateef, and Archie Shepp, and his mother is a Hungarian folksinger—and an ongoing interest in playing all kinds of musical styles. He says the music will touch on jazz, Afrobeat, rai, Indian and Gnawan music, hip-hop, soul, and blues, and he's assembled a terrific lineup to get the job done: Ward, Strickland, Wilkes, guitarist Nathaniel Braddock and singer Mathew Tembo (both of Occidental Brothers), bassist Junius Paul, percussionists Kalyan Pathak and Ryan Mayer, keyboardist Darby Wolf (Rubblebucket Orchestra), singer Alecia Chakour, and saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum (Dap-Kings). McCraven has set himself a high bar, but the great work he's done already suggests he can clear it. —Peter Margasak See also Friday, when McCraven plays with a quintet.