Makaya McCraven and Gil Scott-Heron We're New Again XL Recordings
To Chicago-based drummer and producer Makaya McCraven, sampling is more than just a chance to chop and screw a familiar melody – it is a means of memory. McCraven has spent recent years sampling his own gigs, making his records a reprocessed version of his live performance. This self-remixing style makes him a perfect choice for a posthumous reimagining of Gil Scott-Heron’s final release, I’m New Here.
As well as both musicians hailing from Chicago, McCraven’s father Stephen also drummed with Scott-Heron’s proto hip-hop affiliates The Last Poets and it’s his punchy phrasing which is sampled on New York Is Killing Me. It’s here that the cross-generational interchange so important to jazz is made explicit, with Scott-Heron’s inimitable, pain-stricken growl holding together the differing timeframes.
If nothing else, We’re New Again situates Scott-Heron’s minimal original record and subsequent Jamie xx remixes back within this jazz and blues tradition. McCraven’s touch is marked yet respectful, leaving breathing space for Scott-Heron’s spoken interludes while improvising with other Chicago luminaries like bassist Junius Paul and guitarist Jeff Parker to breathe life into the much-played I’ll Take Care of You, as well as expand on the plaintive monologuing of I’m New Here.
Few of the 18 tracks exceed three minutes and so the record keeps up a jittering momentum. Yet, it is still Scott-Heron’s masterful storytelling which keeps us engaged, the memory of which is now preserved anew by McCraven in their hometown’s current and thriving scene.