Jazz Drummer Makaya McCraven Brings His 'Organic Beat Music' to SF

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Makaya McCraven. (David Marques)

Jazz, that forever-rising dough of American music, is in a leavened state right now. A big part of the recipe is the saxophone—you've probably heard the words "Kamasi Washington" in conjunction with the notion that jazz is "back"—but a more fertile ingredient lately is the drum set. Similar to the acid-jazz explosion in the 1990s, rhythm is the backbone in jazz's new sound, but it's changed; you're likely to hear influences of hip-hop producer J. Dilla and electronic visionary Aphex Twin underpinning a propulsion that feels half-natural, half-electronic.

'Universal Beings' is the latest album from Makaya McCraven.
'Universal Beings' is the latest album from Makaya McCraven.

Enter Makaya McCraven, whose excellent 2018 album Universal Beings straddles that divide. Recorded at various jam sessions in four different cities (London, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles), the music from each was then edited into long, cohesive compositions. And while the sessions included some of the new guard's top stars (including bassist Anna Butterss and British sax phenom Shabaka Hutchings), it's McCraven that gives the music its skittering-but-not-anxious pulse. He calls it "organic beat music."

McCraven settles in with his group for two nights, April 16 and 17, at the Black Cat. A supper-club style joint in the Tenderloin, the Black Cat helpfully offers various tiers of tickets: table seating with an additional $20 per-person food or drink minimum; general admission for those who don't mind standing; and the broke jazz fan's option of hanging out in the upstairs lounge and hearing, but not watching, the music for free. However you experience the guy, McCraven is one to watch right now, and the shows are bound to be energy-filled and exciting. Details here.