Pre-Concert: Makaya McCraven’s "Organic Beat Music"

Windows Pre-Concert Talk:

Makaya McCraven’s "Organic Beat Music"

with Giovanni Russonello



Fri, February 23, 2024 | 6:30pm


Mccraven Pre Show

The Music Center at Strathmore

Education Room 402


Seating will be open for registrants from 6-6:20pm. At 6:20pm unclaimed seats will be released to a standby line.


Access to this event is free with your ticket to Makaya McCraven: In These Times

RSVP required. 

Know Before You Go

Plan Your Visit

Join a listening session and discussion about McCraven's drumming, producing, and tradition-bearing techniques, led by New York Times jazz critic and CapitalBop co-founder Giovanni Russonello. 

McCraven is a small-elements, big-picture artist; repetition and texture are his needle and thread, and his music has never sounded like a broader tapestry than it does on In These Times. McCraven's process often begins with improvisation-heavy live performances; he converts the live recordings into an album only after a full-body edit, using limitless overdubs and an uncanny deployment of loops, turning the source material into a post-hip-hop blend of instruments, scales, and rhythms sourced from around the world. He calls these albums "organic beat music." You could also call them a direct inheritance from an enormous lineage.  

In 2020, McCraven applied his performance-and-production method to a remix of I'm New Here, the final LP by Gil Scott-Heron, late poet, musician, novelist, and revolutionary. Then in 2022 McCraven introduced a large-ensemble approach of his method with In These Times, an album of odd, hypnotic grooves and richly layered strings. At Strathmore, Gio Russonello will play tracks from both of those albums, and guide a discussion touching on McCraven's technique, his affectionate handling of Gil Scott-Heron's legacy, and the band on In These Times.

 This event is part of Strathmore’s Windows series of performances and accompanying programs. Learn more

Meet the Lecturer

Gio Russonello Headshot

Giovanni Russonello

Giovanni Russonello is a writer, educator and organizer who works at the intersection of music, politics and the written word. Since 2017, he has covered jazz and other off-the-beaten-path music as a critic for The New York Times. From 2015 to 2021, off and on, he worked as a reporter and columnist for the Politics desk. He is a co-founder of CapitalBop, a grassroots nonprofit organization serving the Washington, D.C. jazz scene, and teaches writing and critical thinking at NYU’s School of Professional Studies. A 2024 DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities fellow, he is working on a book about Gil Scott-Heron and D.C. in the 1970s and ‘80s, expected in 2025.