Published Oct 25, 2018The infectious energy and bombastic grooves of jazz/soul drummer/band leader Makaya McCraven are channelled into the most focused and cohesive overall recording of his career so far on Universal Beings. That the sound quality is more pristine than previous releases certainly helps — it's no easy feat to get this kind of clarity on a live recording — but it's the songs themselves that feel the most honed.
While the music is clearly rooted in jazz, the influences on this ensemble's sound are vast and worldly, if not measurably universal. With "Black Lion," McCraven and company tap into the deep pocket and simple repetitive hooks of hip-hop, while allowing room for jazzy flourishes filled with subtle nuance to sub in for the absent vocals. Elsewhere, surprisingly baroque violin and harp dances elegantly with Latin rhythms and Cecil McBee-esque bass, and dense African polyrhythms bounce off skittering fiddle, syrupy keys and New Orleans horns on a math-rock acid freak trip.
Without falling into a pit of laudatory, adjective-filled word stew, this is eclectic, bold, inventive, masterfully played music conceived with a refreshing sense of curiosity and wonder at the potential of sound to invigorate the spirit. Fans of BADBADNOTGOOD should cue up to have their minds blown by this profoundly deep fusion of jazz, world music and hip-hop sensibilities. (International Anthem Recording Co)