Makaya McCraven at The Salt Shed

On Tuesday August 2nd, the Chicago music community gathered in the new indoor/outdoor venue housed in the famous defunct Morton’s Salt factory, aptly called The Salt Shed, opening in 2023. Christening the space was Chicago native Makaya McCraven, along with London-based jazz acts Sons of Kemet and Nubya Garcia.

The location is a perfect addition to Chicago’s already stellar summer music schedule, with a 7,000 capacity space right on the Chicago River (near Goose Island), with a 3,000 capacity indoor space to open in the fall. The venue had a mini-festival feeling to it with multiple bars, places to get food, including local favorites Cafe Tola and Pizza Friendly Pizza, and even some vendors such as Record Breakers and Tiny Opal Vintage.

Saxophonist Nubya Garcia started the night off with a great quartet including drums, keys, and double bass. She brought an incredible energy to the stage – whenever she wasn’t playing, she was dancing around and cheering on her bandmates during their solos. 

Sons of Kemet played next, a quartet featuring two drummers, a tuba, and bandleader Shabaka Hutchings on saxophone. They tore the house down, playing cuts from their 2018 breakout record Your Queen Is A Reptile, as well as from last year’s Black To The Future. What most impressed me was Theon Cross on the tuba, his breath control is an amazing thing to witness, especially during his extended solos.

Ending the night was Chicago drummer Makaya McCraven and his ensemble, a seven-piece group including heavy-hitters such as Junius Paul on bass, Matt Gold on guitar, and Marquise Hill on trumpet. McCraven presented a lot of new material from his upcoming album, In These Times, due in September. There’s something beautiful about watching such a large ensemble play together when they are clearly so comfortable with each other, solos weaving in and out, all while McCraven and Paul’s rhythm section keeping the groove.

All in all, it was a great evening of impressive musicians, backdropped by a great new venue opening in 2023 – what’s better than watching the city skyline from the banks of the Chicago River while enjoying the company of friends, new and old.

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