In These Times is the new album by Chicago-based percussionist, composer, producer, and pillar of our label family, Makaya McCraven.
Although this album is “new,” the truth it’s something that’s been in process for a very long time, since shortly after he released his International Anthem debut In The Moment in 2015. Dedicated followers may note he’s had 6 other releases in the meantime (including 2018’s widely-popular Universal Beings and 2020’s We’re New Again, his rework of Gil Scott-Heron’s final album for XL Recordings); but none of which have been as definitive an expression of his artistic ethos as In These Times. This is the album McCraven’s been trying to make since he started making records. And his patience, ambition, and persistence have yielded an appropriately career-defining body of work.
As epic and expansive as it is impressively potent and concise, the 11 song suite was created over 7+ years, as McCraven strived to design a highly personal but broadly communicable fusion of odd-meter original compositions from his working songbook with orchestral, large ensemble arrangements and the edit-heavy “organic beat music” that he’s honed over a growing body of production-craft.
With contributions from over a dozen musicians and creative partners from his tight-knit circle of collaborators – including Jeff Parker, Junius Paul, Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, and Marquis Hill – the music was recorded in 5 different studios and 4 live performance spaces while McCraven engaged in extensive post-production work from home. The pure fact that he was able to so eloquently condense and articulate the immense human scale of the work into 41 fleeting minutes of emotive and engaging sound is a monumental achievement. It’s an evolution and a milestone for McCraven, the producer; but moreover it’s the strongest and clearest statement we’ve yet to hear from McCraven, the composer.
In These Times is an almost unfathomable new peak for an already-soaring innovator who has been called “one of the best arguments for jazz’s vitality” by The New York Times, as well as recently, and perhaps more aptly, a “cultural synthesizer.” While challenging and pushing himself into uncharted territories, McCraven quintessentially expresses his unique gifts for collapsing space and transcending borders – blending past, present, and future into elegant, poly-textural arrangements of jazz-rooted, post-genre 21st century folk music.