Makaya McCraven and Bill Charlap. Opposites attract.



This week, I was just coming up with a clever joke.  Just one of the things I do to amuse myself and break the tedium. I thought of a tagline for Blue Note Records: “Home of All the Rap Hits.” Which, of course, is tongue in cheek. But it does feel sometimes like executive Don Was has made it his personal mission to take the label into that direction. To be fair, much of the new music being made there and elsewhere is highly informed by rap, hip-hop and other genres. So they are merely a barometer as they have been historically.The two recordings I got this week basically reinforce that gag and alternately turn it on its backside. The reinforcement comes from multi instrumentalist (drums, bass, guitar), Makaya McCraven, “Deciphering The Message.” The title is a broad clue. Reworkings, electronic and otherwise, are de rigueur for McCraven and his colleagues.  There’s one decipherable theme: Live dates from jazz giants at The Village Vanguard were the focus of material covered and sampled. Several tracks contain the legendary MC Pee Wee Marquette who can be heard at the beginning of several tracks.These are all succinct and tight little reworkings of pieces. “When Your Lover Has Gone,” (Art Blakey version), “Coppin’ The Haven,” (Dexter Gordon) and Eddie Gale’s “Black Rhythm Happening” are really distilled to their rhythmic essence. Joel Ross and Sean Jones are among the contributors.


As if to quell the melodic loving old timers like myself “Street Of Dreams” with mainstream maven Bill Charlap is also coming out. I was just speculating that the label had dropped the New York based keyboardist whose focus has been primarily in the lyrical and dryer expressions. Charlap’s long serving trio mates bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington are back. there are some nice surprises like Kenny Burrell’s “Your Host” and others to round out this serviceable trio disc. 

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