Makaya McCraven

In a new era of genre-bending music, Makaya McCraven pushes the boundaries of sound and rhythm to create categories of his own. Called “a sound visionary” ( who is “not your everyday jazz drummer” (, McCraven is a beat scientist. Whether behind the drums or in the lab, mixmaster Makaya McCraven moves between genres at lightning speed. “You are listening to one incredible musician. His style and sound is unique, a heady, skillful, sophisticated and boldly uncompromising mix of jazz and hiphop” (UKVibe). Makaya’s breakthrough debut 2XLP, “In the Moment” (International Anthem, 2015) has garnered international attention, earning critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, BBC (Gilles Peterson’s “Album of the Week”), and NPR. “In the Moment” is one of DownBeat and Pop Matters’ Top Jazz Albums of 2015. UK’s The Wire writes, “While Teo Macero’s work with Miles [Davis] might seem the obvious reference point, ‘In The Moment’ is closer in spirit to Madlib and J Dilla.” Jazz Times calls “In The Moment” “mesmerizing” and “an important document.”

Born in Paris in 1983 and raised in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts to jazz drummer Stephen McCraven (Sam Rivers, Archie Shepp) and Hungarian folk singer Agnes Zsigmondi, Makaya was exposed to broad ranges of influences from a young age. Makaya formulated his musical identity under the mentorship of jazz legends Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, and Yusef Lateef. In high school, McCraven cofounded Cold Duck Complex, a jazz hip hop band with a strong following in the Northeast through his years as a student at UMASS Amherst where he studied Jazz. At this time, Makaya played locally and opened for Wu-Tang Clan, Rhazel, Digable Planets, The Pharcyde, 50 Cent, Mixmaster Mike, and The Wailers. In 2007, Makaya McCraven moved to Chicago and quickly established himself in the city’s rich music scene as he played with Bobby Broom, Corey Wilkes, Willie Pickens, Occidental Brothers, Marquis Hill, Jeff Parker and others. 2012 proved a landmark year for McCraven: he released his debut album, “Split Decision” (Chicago Sessions) and led a 13-piece All-Star band as the featured “Made in Chicago” performance at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.

McCraven has played in some of the world’s best clubs, theaters, festivals and arenas. Makaya has shared the stage with a host of great artists such as Charles Neville, Lionel Louke, Soulive, Marcus Strickland, and Bernie Worrell. He has toured extensively, including a 52-city national tour opening for Steely Dan with The Bobby Broom OrganiSation. Makaya endorses Vic Firth sticks and Istanbul AGOP Cymbals.

Makaya McCraven layers his extensive experience with hip hop bands, African dance bands, Hungarian folk music, and indie rock on top of a deep history of “straight ahead” jazz, improvisation, and the avantgarde with beats, sampling, and electronics as a form of unique self expression.

In 2016 McCraven will perform at the Winter Jazz Fest in New York City and will embark in the Spring on his first headlining European tour.

“No longer are we seeing jazz musicians experimenting with a new genre (hip hop) that they find interesting (or vice versa). Now what we’re seeing are jazz musicians who were heavily influenced by hip hop in their most formative years, just as much as they were influenced by jazz or any other genre. This creates a different kind of music. These cats aren’t ‘blending’ jazz and hip hop; for them, these genres are inseparable. They can’t play one without playing the other.” (