Born in Paris to musician parents – his father Stephen plays drums, and his mother is Agnes Zsigmondi, a folk singer well known in her native Hungary – McCraven also enjoyed the mentorship of saxophonists Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef (both of them friends/colleagues of his father) from a young age. By the time he entered the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, McCraven had already toured with Cold Duck Complex, which he co-founded in high school as a merger of rock and hip-hop.
Looking for a larger stage, McCraven moved to Chicago when his wife received a tenure-track post at Northwestern University, but the demand for his services kept him commuting between the east and midwest coasts for the next few years, during which he appeared on more than a dozen pop, rock, and hip-hop releases. Knowing that he had to “work here to live here,” he also made a point of attending any session he could find; learning about the city’s great players; and setting up his own sessions, until word got out about his crisply inventive and powerfully soulful percussion, leading him to be one of the cities most in demand drummers.
Having recently recorded with Chicago guitarist Bobby Broom, and now preparing for a headlined showcase in this summer’s “Made In Chicago” series at Millennium Park, as well as touring with Occidental Brother and Corey Wilkes, McCraven has cracked the upper echelon of Chicago jazz. But it hasn’t changed his basic philosophy. “I like the music to be tight, even when it’s loose, if that makes sense. I can play in a completely improvised situation, but I like to create the illusion that it’s not completely improvised.” It’s a viewpoint that guarantees him continued access to the jazz and pop worlds alike.