Show artwork for Double Bill: Makaya McCraven with The Urban Art Orchestra | Endea Owens & The Cookout
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Double Bill: Makaya McCraven with The Urban Art Orchestra | Endea Owens & The Cookout

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Double Bill: Makaya McCraven with The Urban Art Orchestra | Endea Owens & The Cookout

Friday, October 13, 2023—8:00pm

Friday, October 13, 2023—8:00pm
Orchestra Hall
2 hours

Grammy-winning bassist Endea Owens and her band The Cookout make their Paradise Jazz Series debut. Once a member of the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles of Detroit, the rising star is now seen and heard by millions as a house band member on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Having “quietly become one of the best arguments for jazz’s vitality,” (The New York Times) Makaya McCraven explores new sounds that make you settle back, inviting Detroit’s Urban Art Orchestra to join to perform his new project In These Times.


Makaya McCraven


Makaya McCraven's newest album, In These Times, is the triumphant finale of a project that has been more than seven years in the making. It’s a preeminent addition to his already-acclaimed and extensive discography, and it’s the album he’s been trying to make since he started making records.

McCraven believes that the word “jazz” is “insufficient, at best, to describe the phenomenon we’re dealing with.” The artist, who has been aptly called a “cultural synthesizer,” has a unique gift for collapsing space, destroying borders and blending past, present, and future into poly-textural arrangements of post-genre, jazz-rooted 21st century folk music. Profiled in Vice, Rolling Stone, the Guardian, and NPR, among other publications, he and the music he makes today are at the very vanguard of that phenomenon. According to the New York Times, “McCraven has quietly become one of the best arguments for jazz’s vitality”. The artist explained to NPR in 2019, "I don't think what I'm doing is necessarily that far off of the legacy of jazz that I grew up in...I think one of the things that gives it strength is that people want to argue over it. That's a good sign. That means there's life here."

Born in Paris in the Autumn of 1983 to Hungarian singer and flutist Ágnes Zsigmondi and African-American expat jazz drummer Stephen McCraven, Makaya was raised in a vibrant, creative community in the Northampton, Massachusetts area, where his father often played with artists like saxophonist and ethnomusicologist Marion Brown, multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef, and saxophonist Archie Shepp, as well as a cadre of African Gnawa musicians. That scene, with its enticing blend of cultures, helped establish his philosophy around jazz as folk music. Meanwhile, his mother’s music blended Eastern European folk traditions, concurrently shaping his conceptions about the role of music in building and reflecting communities.

“I'm really drawn to folk music. Music of aural tradition, music that is of the people where it's more of a collective experience of music and dance and culture that we all participate in and know as part of our being or as part of who we are.” He sees his work as a continuation of those traditions, noting, “I like to teach the music to musicians by ear, and hope even when I bring in more challenging rhythms, or difficult time signatures, I am able to do it in a way that is of the body and of the people of the earth in a way that’s not necessarily some intellectual experiment, but more something that's dealing with people.”

While immersed as a youth in global folk traditions, he was also a child of the nineties, deeply influenced by sample-based hip-hop. He observed that jazz was sometimes perceived by his peers as “something that was old, corny, white...going to get you beat up.” This directly countered his own experience with the music: “That was such a strange idea to me, because the guys I grew up around were cool, and [weren’t] buttoned up like that.”

Eventually he discovered bridges between jazz and hip-hop, including classic jazz records being sampled by hip-hop producers such as Pete Rock, and began to devote energy to “reappropriate this music to be what it is, what it means to me, and what it means for my people."

After cutting his teeth in the Western Massachusetts music scene, co-founding a jazz-hip hop band called Cold Duck Complex that ultimately opened for The Pharcyde, Digable Planets, and the Wu-Tang Clan, he and his partner (now wife, comparative race studies scholar Nitasha Tamar Sharma) moved to Chicago in 2006. McCraven soon found himself immersed in both the creative and straight-ahead jazz scenes, proving his versatility, and along the way finding a community that mirrored the pulsating scene that birthed him artistically. Within five years' time, he’d established a name for himself, gigging alongside scene stalwarts like Willie Pickens, Marquis Hill, and Jeff Parker.

He first connected with the founders of Chicago’s International Anthem label in late 2011, and across 2012-2013 they hosted and recorded a series of improvised jazz nights featuring his combo at The Bedford, a club situated in what was once an old basement bank vault. McCraven took 48 hours of recordings and sculpted beguiling hip-hop beats, not unlike how Teo Macero looped and assembled Miles Davis’s On the Corner from improvised magic. At the time, McCraven thought of the project, which became the 2015 double LP release In The Moment, as an opportunity to connect and to “find a young audience in this music. It just felt like the right time and a place where I could really connect with people.” That notion proved prophetic: JazzTimes called the album “one of the year's most mesmerizing releases,” the record was an “Album of the Week'' pick by taste-making DJ Gilles Peterson on BBC 6 Music, and it was chosen for “Best of 2015” lists by PopMatters, NPR, and the Los Angeles Times.

McCraven continued to hone his process of live improvisation and sampling with Highly Rare in 2017 (crafted from a live set recorded at Danny’s Tavern in Chicago), 2018’s Where We Come From (CHICAGOxLONDON Mixtape), which was built from recordings of a showcase at London’s Total Refreshment Centre, and Universal Beings (also released in 2018). Universal Beings, consisting of augmented live sessions in Chicago and New York, in addition to pop-up studio sessions in London and Los Angeles, concretely reflects his borderless multi-national ethos. The work featured varying configurations of international players, including Nubya Garcia and Shabaka Hutchings from London, Junius Paul and Tomeka Reid of Chicago, Anna Butterss and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson from Los Angeles, and Brandee Younger and Dezron Douglas from New York.

The title of the album was culled from a sampled passage on the track Brighter Days Beginning, in which percussionist Carlos Niño offers, “We’re universal beings,” a theme of borderlessness that resonated deeply with McCraven, who grew up in a multicultural household and community. “I’m not beholden to this border or this city,” McCraven told Vice in 2018, “What is a place? Other than the people. It’s just dirt, you know?” The resulting album was called “radiant” and “hypnotic” by Pitchfork.

In 2019, McCraven both delivered a triumphant Jazz Night in America performance at South Shore Cultural Center in Chicago, and mounted a multimedia performance of an early iteration of what became his new album In These Times, at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis.

In the meantime, he remixed Gil Scott-Heron’s final album (2010’s I’m New Here) for 2020’s We’re New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven, issued Universal Beings E+F Sides (also in 2020), and delved into the venerable Blue Note Records catalog in 2021 for Deciphering the Message, each project also employing new improvisations and sampling, helping to further cement his “beat scientist” moniker. Concurrently, the seeds for 2022’s In These Times were budding, and their nurseries were stages around the globe. McCraven explains, “As I've been touring, I've been performing music off of the record In These Times...when In the Moment took off and I started touring a lot, we would go on the road and 50% of the music was just my concept and my compositions."

In These Times, a collection of polytemporal compositions inspired as much by broader cultural struggles as McCraven’s personal experience as a product of a multinational, working class musician community, is the recording that McCraven has been trying to create for more than seven years, as it’s been slowly cooking in the background while his other works were released. He began recording In These Times seven years ago, but “for whatever reason, Universal Beings just came to fruition much quicker. It just took more time for this to mature into everything it's become. With the success of Universal Beings and the Universal Beings concerts that we did (with Red Bull) in Chicago at South Shore Cultural Center and le poisson rouge in New York, I had an opportunity to realize the record not as a collection of four sides of trios and quartets, but I turned that record as a performance into a 10 to 12-person concert, and that experience ended up evolving my approach to In These Times.”

In These Times encompasses all he’s lived through, as well as his lineage, while also pushing the music forward. A music critic from Passion of the Weiss suggested that “McCraven’s work, both with younger players and the sounds of older recordings, is part of a necessary conversation about the next evolution of the Black improvised music known colloquially as ‘jazz.’ He’s found the threads connecting the past with the present, and is either wrapping them with new colors and textures, or he’s plucking them gleefully like the strings of a grand instrument.” McCraven concurs: “To me, that is the tradition that I want to try to take part in. Being well-rooted, but walking into the future, is really what all of the leaders in this music have done that I admire. And I think that resonates with people. Something that's like how we know it, but is evolving... It's just where I am at, where we're at, and the evolution of that, and that's what I'm trying to be.”

Joel Ross


Joel Ross continues refining an expression that’s true to his sound and his generation. In 2019, the vibraphonist-composer issued his anticipated Blue Note debut, Edison Award-winning record KingMaker to eruptive critical acclaim, followed by his 2020 release Who Are You? which features his band Good Vibes at their most synchronous. New York Times critic Giovanni Russonello praised the album for the ways it “speaks to a new level of group cohesion…more tangle, more sharing, more possibility.” 

Ross has topped the DownBeat Critics Poll Rising Star category for vibraphone—graduating beyond the Rising Star to well-honed artist in 2021—as well as the Jazz Journalists Association Critics Poll for Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year in 2020 and 2021. He recently became one of the youngest artists to earn a coveted Residency Commission from The Jazz Gallery and a spot in The Jazz Gallery All Stars band through which he performed live at The Kennedy Center. In 2020, he received a Jazz Coalition Commission for Praise in the Midst of The Storm, a performance suite featuring Brandee Younger, Marquis Hill, Craig Weinrib, Dezron Douglas, and longtime friend and collaborator Immanuel Wilkins, with whom he recently performed a three-night duo program live at The Village Vanguard as part of the storied venue’s streaming series. In 2021, Ross enjoyed a residency at Roulette Intermedium for Jazzfest Berlin, premiering original work She Walks in the Spirit alongside Gabrielle Garo, Brandee Younger, Mimi Jones, Savannah Harris and Nappy Nina, and 4nette alongside Immanuel Wilkins, Thomas Morgan, and Craig Weinrib, in January and May, respectively. He has performed multiple residencies at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. 

Folkloric resonance incubates Ross’s artistry. Improvising melodies or composing at the piano, he leaves space for a theme to emerge and evolve, always inviting creative response. Nimble, virtuosic lines approximate speech. He often transitions among the roles of storyteller, protagonist and supporting character. Inspired by mentor Stefon Harris’ empathetic, whole-self approach to articulation, Ross has adopted an entire ethos dependent on truthful, ongoing communication. Honesty persists throughout his sets. And with each release, he reaffirms a commitment to authentic discourse. 

The Parable of the Poet, Ross’s third release for Blue Note Records, explores feelings self-awareness—confidence, doubt, regret and forgiveness—through storytellings and retellings. Using collaborative improvising, collective melody and instrumental features, the intuitive band leader spotlights unique attributes of fellow artists Immanuel Wilkins, Maria Grand, Marquis Hill, Kalia Vandever, Sean Mason, Rick Rosato, Craig Weinrib, and returning special guest Gabrielle Garo. JazzTrail praises the new gesture as “a frontline with four horns and a sharply focused rhythm section where piano and vibes coexist harmoniously together, [resulting] in glittering, polished surfaces that bring together emotion and devotion. Ross is a serious bandleader, and this album is a combination of his creativity, skill, and generosity.” 

A steadfast improviser, Ross saturates live sets with a lyrical intuition that’s equally grounded in melody and phrasing. He plays the moment. Rather than impose energies on the music, he allows moods to set, linger and transform. His style and approach embraces contributions from improvisers of all genders. In recent years, he’s engaged artists of similarly tenacious voices, including Makaya McCraven (Universal Beings, 2018), Maria Grand, Kassa Overall, Nicole Mitchell, Gerald Clayton, Melissa Aldana (Visions, 2019), Walter Smith III (In Common, 2018), Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jure Pukl (Broken Circles, 2019), Rajna Swaminathan, Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Gabrielle Garo, Joshua Redman, Kalia Vandever, Zakir Hussain, Brandee Younger, Zach Moses Ostroff, Savannah Harris, Marcus Gilmore, Mimi Jones, Rashaan Carter, Nappy Nina, Matt Brewer, Miho Hazama, Sergio Tabanico, and Marquis Hill (Modern Flows Vol. 2, 2018), who penned liner notes for Who Are You? 

Playing thoroughly in the broad, resonating tradition of Black music, Ross draws inspiration for his layered expression from vital, intersecting scenes of his native Chicago. Imbibing nuanced traditions from improvised music hubs to the church, he embraced a range of gestural possibilities he’d begin refining in New York. After graduating from University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, Ross pursued a bachelor of fine arts in jazz studies from The New School in downtown Manhattan. Now based in Brooklyn, he regularly performs across the country and around the world. As a leader, he’s appeared at such storied venues and iconic events as The Village Vanguard, Smalls Jazz Club, Umbria Jazz Festival, The Jazz Gallery, Winter Jazz Fest, Newport Jazz Festival, Dizzy’s Club, BRIC Jazz Festival, The Blue Whale, North Sea Jazz Festival, The Brubeck Institute, Kuumbwa Jazz Festival, and Ekene Ijeoma’s Breathing Pavilion at The Plaza at 300 Ashland, among others. His most recent tour included dates at Triennale di Milano, Teatro dell’Arte and Teatro Ariston in Italy; Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, small hall, LUX Nijmegen, Lantaren Venster, Bimhuis, Rockit Festival and De Oosterpoort in The Netherlands; Ronnie Scott’s in London; Le Duc des Lombards in Paris; and Jazzclub Unterfahrt and Halle 424 in Germany, among other international venues. A highly sought collaborator, Ross has performed with equally dynamic leaders at Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Village Vanguard, SF Jazz, Duc des Lombards, Ronnie Scotts, Jazz Standard, Red Sea Jazz Festival, Frost Amphitheater at Stanford, Yoshi’s Oakland, and California Jazz Conservatory. 

During the pandemic, Ross began expanding his artistry to include creative positions away from the bandstand, including podcast appearances for Christian McBride’s Live Wax and Dave Douglas’s A Noise from the Deep. The Art Center at Duck Creek in East Hampton invited him to curate an entire performance program featuring original works from Joel Ross and Parables, Maria Grand, and Patricia Brennan. In 2020, John Zorn tapped Ross for authorship contributions to the ninth installment of his theory and practice Arcana series. In 2021, Ross joined the adjunct faculty at Manhattan School of Music and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. 

De'Sean Jones


De’Sean Jones, a Detroit School of Arts alumnus, is a two-time Grammy Award-nominated and three-time Stellar Award-winning composer and arranger. He is the protégé of both the late trumpet legend Marcus Belgrave and techno pioneer Mad Mike Banks, as well as a long time member of Underground Resistance. Jones has garnered opportunities to teach, compose, and tour the world extensively, collaborating with music icons such as Stevie Wonder, The Clark Sisters, and Faith Evans. Through his consistent artistic efforts, Jones aspires to uphold the rich musical legacy of Detroit.

Endea Owens


Known as one of Jazz’s most vibrant emerging artists, Endea Owens is a Detroit-raised recording artist, bassist, and composer. She has been mentored by Jazz Icons the likes of Marcus Belgrave, Rodney Whitaker, and Ron Carter. She has toured and performed with Wynton Marsalis, Jennifer Holliday, Diana Ross, Rhonda Ross, Solange, Jon Batiste, Jazzmeia Horn, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Steve Turre, to name a few.

In 2018, Owens graduated from The Juilliard School, and joined the Late Show with Stephen Colbert as a member of the house band, Stay Human. Since then, Owens has won an Emmy, a Grammy, and a George Foster Peabody Award. Owens’s work has appeared on Jon Batiste’s Grammy Award-winning album We Are, Oscar Award-nominated film Judas and the Black Messiah, and H.E.R’s widely acclaimed Super Bowl LV performance.

Owens has a true passion for philanthropy and teaching. She has taught students across the United States, South America, and Europe. In 2020, Endea founded the Community Cookout, a non-profit organization birthed out of the Covid-19 pandemic that provides meals and music to underserved neighborhoods in New York City. To date, Owens’s organization has helped feed close to 3,000 New Yorkers and has hosted over a dozen free music concerts.

In 2022, Owens composed an original piece about the life of Ida B. Wells entitled Ida’s Crusade for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and was also performed by the NYO Carnegie Hall Orchestra. Owens has written for brands such as Pyer Moss and Glossier. Owens is set to premiere a newly commissioned work with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and will serve as the 2023 MAC Music Innovator with the organization. In addition, to her work with the Cinncinati Symphony Orchestra, Owens is the curator for the National Arts Club and also a fellow for “Jazz is Now!” with the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, where she presents original compositions, curates series, and headlines performances for the 2022-2023 season. Owens’s debut album Feel Good Music released in early 2023. 

Brandee Younger


“No harpist thus far has been more capable of combining all of the modern harp traditions — from Salzedo, through Dorothy Ashby, through Alice Coltrane — with such strength, grace and commitment.” - The New York Times

A leading voice of the harp today, performer, composer, educator, and concert curator Brandee Younger defies genres and labels. She has performed and recorded with artists including Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Common, John Legend, The Roots, Stevie Wonder, and Lauryn Hill. In 2019, she released her fourth solo album, Soul Awakening, and her original composition “Hortense” was featured in the Netflix Concert-Documentary, Beyoncé: Homecoming. This same year, Younger was selected to perform her original music as a featured performer for Quincy Jones and Steve McQueen's “Soundtrack of America.” Younger’s ability to seamlessly inject the harp into arrangements and venues where it has historically been overlooked is a testament to her deep love for and exemplary command of the instrument.

Younger earned her Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance at the Hartt School of Music and her Master of Music at NYU Steinhardt. She has taught at Adelphi University, Nassau Community College, and The Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford, and teaches masterclasses globally. Past residencies and masterclasses include The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto), University of Birmingham (UK), Howard University, Drexel University, Princeton University, Tulane University, Trinity College, The Hartt School, University of Michigan, DePaul University, and Berklee College of Music. She also serves as Symphonic and Jazz Harp Artist in Residence at the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts.

She holds leadership positions through the Apollo (theater) Young Patrons Steering Committee and the American Harp Society, Inc. where she is Director at Large. As a concert curator, Younger organized “Divine Ella,” part of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s annual Women’s Jazz Festival. She also served as curator of the 2016 Harp On Park concert series, “highlighting the diversity of the harp and the contemporary importance of an ancient instrument,” and most recently coordinated Her Song, featuring the works of women composers, both for Arts Brookfield.

Kris Johnson


Kris Johnson is an award-winning trumpeter, composer, and educator based in the Detroit metro area. 

As an artist, Johnson’s work focuses on music that spans the depth and breadth Black American music. The influences that have shaped his artistry include Terence Blanchard, Thad Jones, Nicholas Payton, Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews, Clifford Brown, Roy Hargrove, and many others. 

As the leader of The Kris Johnson Group, he has recorded several studio albums including Odd Expressions, Journey Through a Dream, and The Unpaved Road with Lulu Fall. Many of his projects in recent years have combined his music with technology and often address poignant themes, including his 2020 self-produced and entirely self-performed audio-visual album SAFE, which features his abstract illustrations and animation and explores childhood memories. In 2021, Johnson compiled the music produced for a social media series, which examines the idea of breaking free from generational trauma, into an album, #looptherapy, vol. 1. Lighter in mood but no less impressive is his series of videos with the Kris Johnson Big Band, a project dreamed up during the pandemic of 2020, which uses clever video editing to create a an entirely virtual large ensemble, the players of which were gathered from Johnson’s diverse circle friends and professional contacts from around the globe. 

Besides his own projects, Johnson’s career has been filled with incredible moments working as a trumpet player for hire. He toured the world with the illustrious Count Basie Orchestra from 2008-2019 and has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious jazz venues including the Apollo Theater, the Blue Note Jazz Club (US and Japan), Sydney Opera House, Blues Alley, and the Hollywood Bowl. Johnson has also had the opportunity to perform with many jazz greats including: the Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Tony Bennett, Patti Austin, Wes Anderson, Wycliffe Gordon, Jon Hendricks, Monty Alexander, Christian McBride, Jamie Cullum, and was featured soloist in the 2013 standup-comedy film Make Me Wanna Holla starring Sinbad. 

Johnson has a keen sensitivity to the nuances of film and a knack for storytelling through music, as is evident in his award-winning film scores for various web series, documentaries, short films, and feature films, and the two full-length musicals he has written. Kris scored the Dui Jarrod web series King Ester which was picked up by Issa Rae’s YouTube Channel “Issa Rae Presents.” The series was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards in 2020. Johnson received an Outstanding Score award for his work on the comedic web series, The PuNanny Diaries, at the 2011 LA Webfest and wrote the score for Searching For Shaniqua, which won HBO’s Best Doc Award at the 2016 Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. 

The Plowshares Theater (Detroit, MI), in partnership with the Kresge Foundation, recently commissioned Johnson to compose a musical influenced by Detroit’s historic Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods. Hastings Street: the musical is currently in development with music/lyrics co-composed by Johnson and playwright/actor John Sloan III who also wrote the book. Johnson was awarded a grant in 2014 from New Music USA to fund a studio recording of his original musical Jim Crow’s Tears with a book by Gary Anderson of Plowshares Theater (Detroit). 

In addition to his work on film scores and musicals, Johnson has been commissioned to write compositions and arrangements for the Count Basie Orchestra, Ken Thompkins (Principal Trombone, Detroit Symphony Orchestra), Arts League of Michigan, Karen Clark Sheard, Yolanda Adams, the Clark Sisters, Farmington Community Band, Detroit Symphony’s Civic Ensembles, Ferndale Community Concert Band, Motor City Brass Band, Troy High School, New Trier High School, and many others. In 2012, Johnson received an ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers award and was selected as one of 25 Detroit performing and literary artists to receive a $25,000 Kresge Artist Fellowship. 

Johnson’s journey as an educator began with his own education at Michigan State University, where he received his bachelor’s and master's degrees in jazz studies in 2005 and 2007, respectively. He has gone on to serve in the role of Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Utah from 20152019; a Project Director for Pontiac School District, leading a US Department of Education Arts in EducationModel Development and Dissemination Grant; and as the Education and Digital Programming Manager for the Motown Museum. Additionally, he has served on the teaching faculty at The Ohio State University, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Civic Youth Ensembles, and as an Artistic Liaison for JazzEd Detroit through a partnership with ArtOps and the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. Currently, Johnson is the Director of Michigan State University’s Community Music School in Detroit. 

Endea Owens and The Cookout: Tiny Desk Concert

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