Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz
If you were following jazz in Seattle in the last century, you probably heard about standout Garfield High School drummer Kassa Overall. If you tuned in during this era, you may have seen him playing with the late Geri Allen or tapping his laptop with Jon Batiste & Stay Human on “The Late Show with Steven Colbert.”
After more than a decade in New York, Overall has become a force to contend with, both as a jazz drummer and hip-hop producer-MC. His debut full-length, Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz, melds those two sources in a bold and seductive way.
A master of warm, soulful mixes—sometimes with bedroom eyes—Overall kneads live jazz instruments (trumpet, saxophone, drums, piano) into electronic textures and beats with
a canny balance of pop tightness and controlled chaos, sometimes creating ecstatic atmospherics (“The Sky Diver”) or heartfelt tributes (“When Will They Learn,” with Carmen Lundy), and at others delivering raps about Jungian archetypes (“La Casa Azul,” with Roy Hargrove), friends fallen (“Mark Sampson”) or living (“My Friend,” with Arto Lindsay), institutionalized racism (“Prison and Pharmaceuticals”), love lost (“What’s New With You”), fame (“Who’s On The Playlist,” with celestial vocals by Judi Jackson), or yearning love (“Do You,” with Theo Croker).
I love this line from Overall’s caustic riff on the standard, “What’s New” — “Next lifetime, please stay away from me.” I’m not so crazy about the rippling electronic clichés on “Do You,” nor do the bumping interruptions and silvery synths add much to the Lundy remix. But this is a stupendously smart album that Seattle jazz fans can be very proud of. And by the way, that’s Seattle’s own Lauren Du Graf reciting the title’s intriguing suggestion.
–Paul de Barros
Kassa Overall performs Saturday, July 20, at the Capitol Hill Block Party on the Vera Stage. Tickets and information at capitolhillblockparty.com
21-year-old drummer/composer Xavier Lecouturier has been making a definite impression on the jazz scene in Seattle. As a student at Cornish College of the Arts, he made his way to jam sessions, and acquainted himself with the best players in town, eventually landing in the quintet of trumpeter Thomas Marriott. His debut album as band-leader, Carrier is a collection of compositions forged during this period of rapid self-discovery.
Lecouturier is surely the driving force behind this recording, but there is a collective feel to the record, with major contributions from guitarist Lucas Winter, pianist Gus Carns and bassist Ben Feldman as both musicians and composers. Marriott is part of the collective as well, adding a veteran presence to the proceedings, along with the young and talented Roosevelt grad, Santosh Sharma on tenor saxophone and EWI.
The opening “Aube” is a Lecouturier selection that features Sharma and Winter carrying the melody between the layered harmony of Carns, Feldman, and Lecouturier. Winter’s single note melody line and subsequent solo highlights his major contribution to the session. The same can be said about the title track, with the album’s most memorable melody contained within.
Winter’s “Striations” features Sharma cutting loose on EWI, and Winter’s rapid-fire single note solo filtered into workable parts by Lecouturier’s vibrant playing, and Carns’ loose fitting, tasteful harmony.
Lecouturier’s “Waiting” features trumpeter Marriott’s trademark tone, and melodic sensibility, accentuated by a fine bass interlude from Feldman. A more orchestral feel comes across during Feldman’s very modern sounding composition, “Event Horizon.”
While each tune has its unique qualities, there is a collective commonality between them that establishes an expression of intimate space and time, reflecting this period of both self-awareness, and community association. Carrier is not only a brilliant beginning for Lecouturier, it is a standard to be upheld by a collection of fine young players we should be hearing from often down the road.