Morning Mari* Album of the Week 5-9 November


This week’s Morning Mari* album of the week is Makaya McCraven‘s ‘Universal Beings’ out on International Anthem Recordings Co. in 2xCD (Digital) and 2xLP format.

Paris-born, New England-raised, long-time Chicago-residing Makaya McCraven has been at the forefront of genre-redefining movements in jazz since 2015, when he introduced the world to his unique brand of ‘organic beat music’ on the breakout album In The Moment. Culled, cut, post-produced & re-composed by Makaya using recordings of free improvisation he collected over dozens of live sessions in Chicago, through incubation & experimentation In The Moment established a procedural blueprint that he has since been sharpening & developing.

Honing this process on narrower sets of source material, Makaya followed up In The Moment with 2 mixtape releases – 2017’s Highly Rare, a lo-fi free-jazz-meets-hip-hop suite he made from a live 4-track recording, and June 2018’s Where We Come From (CHICAGOxLONDON Mixtape), which he produced using live recordings from London jazz hub Total Refreshment Centre (captured at a showcase called CHICAGOxLONDON).

Now, after 4+ years of refining his approach, Makaya McCraven puts forth an ambitious new work – Universal Beings – a culmination of concepts conceived by In The Moment, and his most elegant & articulated work yet.

The first of the sessions was in New York, in the cavernous concrete basement of H0l0 in Ridgewood, Queens, where Makaya improvised with harpist Brandee Younger (Moses Sumney, Lauryn Hill) for the first time, along with his old friend from N.E., Dezron Douglas (bassist for Pharaoh Sanders, Ravi Coltrane), and NY-residing Chicago expats Joel Ross (vibraphone) & Tomeka Reid (cello).

Just days after the H0l0 session, the second session was recorded live at International Anthem’s Chicago HQ Co-Prosperity Sphere, assembled by Makaya to seize a rare opportunity to make sound with saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (who was in Chicago from London to perform with Louis Moholo-Moholo). The full group for the gig again included Tomeka Reid on cello, and was completed by Makaya’s home-town low-end lynchpin Junius Paul (bassist for Roscoe Mitchell, recent addition to the Art Ensemble of Chicago).

The third session took place in London, an afternoon hit (before soundcheck of the aforementioned CHICAGOxLONDON showcase) in the upstairs studio of Total Refreshment Centre, where Makaya was joined for 2 hours of free playing by 3 musicians he had never worked with prior – saxophonist Nubya Garcia, bassist Daniel Casimir, and pianist Ashley Henry.

And the final of the four sessions was setup in the garage behind guitarist Jeff Parker’s house in Los Angeles County, a small space where somehow Makaya fit himself and five other musicians – Parker on guitar, violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (Flying Lotus, Thundercat), percussionist Carlos Niño (Dexter Story, Jamire Williams), bassist Anna Butterss, and saxophonist Josh Johnson (Kiefer, Esperanza Spaulding).

In the months following, the improvised recordings from all four sessions were post-produced, edited & arranged by Makaya into four dynamic suites, which he divided & sequenced contextually & chronologically (i.e. on vinyl, the album is split by city per side of the LP, starting with the New York side). Physically spanning national & international borders to create an album that musically spans deep spiritual jazz meditations, pulsing post-bop grooves & straight-ahead boom-bap, Makaya McCraven defies the simplifications of revisionism & regionalism while celebrating the sounds, settings & stories that define the provenance of his work. Universal Beings projects an allencompassing message of unity, peace & power by embracing transcendence in all its expressions.


1. A Queen’s Intro
2. Holy Lands (feat. Brandee Younger)
3. Young Genius (feat. Joel Ross)
4. Black Lion (feat. Dezron Douglas)
5. Tall Tales (feat. Tomeka Reid)
6. Mantra
7. Pharaoh’s Intro
8. Atlantic Black
9. Inner Flight
10. Wise Man, Wiser Woman (feat. Shabaka Hutchings)
11. Prosperity’s Fear (feat. Junius Paul)
12. Flipped OUT
13. Voila (feat. Daniel Casimir)
14. Suite Haus (feat. Nubya Garcia)
15. The Newbies Lift Off (feat. Ashley Henry)
16. The Royal Outro
17. The Count Off (feat. Carlos Niño)
18. Butterss’s (feat. Anna Butterss)
19. Turtle Tricks (feat. Jeff Parker)
20. The Fifth Monk
21. Brighter Days Beginning (feat. Josh Johnson)
22. Universal Beings (feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson)

Other Posts