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Kassa Overall: I Think I’m Good (Brownswood)

A review of the drummer's second full-length album

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Kassa Overall: I Think I'm Good
The cover of I Think I’m Good by Kassa Overall

Seemingly documenting his time in and out of care facilities, Kassa Overall raps/sings in slo-mo over gorgeous slabs of sampled and live tableaus that create a new genre: self-care jazz-hop. A talented jazz drummer who toured for seven years with pianist Geri Allen until her death in 2017, Overall swings hard, swings loose, swings like Elvin by way of Jon Christensen (RIP). His touch is light and airy, but his pulse is deep and driving; when Overall performed some of the music from I Think I’m Good at the most recent Winter Jazzfest in New York, it was soft in the head but blistering in the heart.

The album itself features some of the finest: Joel Ross, Morgan Guerin, Julius Rodriguez, Melanie Charles, J Hoard, Sullivan Fortner, Brandee Younger, Theo Croker, Craig Taborn, Aaron Parks, and Vijay Iyer, all performing under Kassa’s gentle spell. He can tear through a straight-ahead jazz jam, but I Think I’m Good is an amalgam of jazz and hip-hop sensibilities—though you have to wade through some spongy yellow cake-sounding tunes before things get deep.

The loose, solo Afro-Cuban drumming of “Landline” provides a rumbling platform for Overall’s childhood-history rap. He also plants some seamless brush work and robo beats under the ethereal “Please Don’t Kill Me,” and drops dry-sticking jabs and cymbal color all over “Find Me.” Earthy drum triplets drive “Sleeping on the Train,” complete with New York MTA announcements and what sounds like surprised passengers. Overall works out some mad drum and bass on “Got Me a Plan,” which recalls Stevie Wonder freestyling with Squarepusher. A tribute to Geri Allen, “Was She Happy,” brings us back where we started, slightly confused but chilled.

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Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.