The DJ as a jazz artist isn’t an entirely new concept. Since at least the ’90s, beatmakers have been reconfiguring jazz breaks and samples into new compositions of lush sounds and crackly surfaces, and eventually jazz labels themselves got on board, like in 2003 when Blue Note invited Madlib to make new mixes of its back catalog on Shades of Blue. Paris-born, Chicago-based producer and drummer Makaya McCraven takes an even more ambitious tack on his latest effort, employing an all-star team of contemporary jazz musicians including Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia and Jeff Parker to provide live-in-studio material for a newly constructed collage of hypnotic jazz sounds, samples, snippets and scraps.
“Black Lion” is driven by the upright bass of Dezron Douglas, and if not for the appearance of loops within the piece, it might be mistaken for a live jazz recording. It’s a gorgeous, if brief piece of late-night groove, the shimmer of vibraphone creating a sumptuous and lightly psychedelic wash over everything. It’s a track that both broods and twinkles, mesmerizes and moves. And though it’s technically a sample-based work, what you’re hearing is essentially the same process in action as the earliest fusion records: a session of some of the best musicians in jazz spliced and restructured into an entirely new context.
From Universal Beings, out October 26 via International Anthem.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.