Album of the week — Universal Beings by Makaya McCraven
Freer than before, the looseness makes things better and more convincing than In The Moment. What’s changed?
Greater experience, better ideas — answers on a postcard puh-lease. Culled from NY-LON and Chi-town sessions the drummer composer is joined by among others harpist Brandee Younger, Ron Carter-esque bassist Dezron Douglas and Shabaka Hutchings on tenor saxophone. Released on 26 October. Think the 1990s sound of the Steve Coleman drummer Gene Lake as a rough signpost certainly in terms of technique and for the writing there is a gentle 1970s spiritual jazz feel to a lot of the sound moods. **** Stand out track: a cinch: the bass heavy ‘Black Lion’ on an album that on one level is an unstoppably nuanced rhythmical masterclass, by another yardstick an escapist slice of wide screen dreamery. McCraven plays the London Jazz Festival on 24 Nov.
1 Pat Metheny: Extraordinary achievements down through the decades whether on world tours with the Pat Metheny Group, recording memorably with David Bowie, in Metheny’s own innovations (for instance the pioneering use of guitar synthesizer and his own “robot” Orchestrion) or with such icons of free music as Ornette Coleman and Derek Bailey and in his interpretations of the music of John Zorn, the Missourian continues a story picked up by Charlie Christian and continued by Wes Montgomery in terms of innovation, new dialects and vocabulary, sheer virtuosity and joy in performance.
2 George Benson: The ultimate communicator.
3 John Scofield: A bluesician at heart.
4 John McLaughlin: Into the mystic: IndoJazz innovator.
5 Carlos Santana: Latin-jazz and adored rock master.
6 Kenny Burrell: Made history with Jimmy Smith.
7 Bill Frisell: Guitar everyman. Americana and freebop distilled.
8 Terje Rypdal: Prog jazz exemplar and icon.
9 Lionel Loueke: Afrojazz innovator.
10 Eivind Aarset: Scandi “futurejazz” innovator.
11 Mary Halvorson: Avant, post-Derek Bailey, icon.
12 Russell Malone: Mainstream accompanist par excellence, especially in a vocals context.
13 Kurt Rosenwinkel: Consummate skill coming out of the heart of jazz. Hugely influential.
14 Julian Lage: Now in his prime: can cover anything.
15 Marc Ribot: From Tom Waits to Albert Ayler. Can do it all.
16 Phil Robson: influential jazz-rock consolidator with Partisans.
17 Mike Stern: Has his own joyful, fearsome, vaulting sound. Signature appeal.
18 Mike Walker: north of England legend. Stylistically unique. Needs to be better known, still.
19 Wolfgang Muthspiel: sublime, elegant, chamber-jazz practitioner and more.
20 Kevin Eubanks: knows how to reach the heart of the matter and communicate. Born to play.