Whose Hat Is This?: Everything’s OK (Ropeadope)

Review of album by a jazzy offshoot of the Tedeschi Trucks Band

Cover of Whose Hat Is This? album Everything's OK
Cover of Whose Hat Is This? album Everything’s OK

Four members of the Tedeschi Trucks Band have a little secret: When they’re not playing auditoriums and festivals with one of the world’s biggest blues-rock groups, they moonlight as an avant-garde quartet that draws on free jazz, hip-hop, funk, and metal. Saxophonist Kebbi Williams, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and drummers J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell perform under the moniker Whose Hat Is This?, and their new album, Everything’s OK, is a live recording from a show at a Baltimore nightclub, with hip-hop vocalist Kokayi out front.

The music is a vigorous mix of disparate elements; imagine Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Ginger Baker sitting in with Rage Against the Machine. The emphasis on rhythm is huge, with the two drummers sometimes beating in tandem and sometimes working at odds, as they do on “Chomp-Chomp-Chomp/Love!” Lefebvre’s bass is often ultra-deep and grungy, especially on the headbanger “Side of the Ditch.” Williams blows like a monster, evoking not only Kirk but Peter Brötzmann and never stating anything resembling a melody. Kokayi’s auctioneer-speed rapping adds another layer of intensity to the music, with daredevil turns of phrase on “Jon Homes.”

But everything’s not OK with Everything’s OK. While this may have been a fun concert to attend, it doesn’t translate to disc. The “songs” are largely unfocused sketches, and there’s too much noodling around. Performances are broken into smaller tracks without rhyme or reason, and some of what’s included should have been cut. A joke about “the softest note that’s ever been played” in the club may have been funny in a crowd with beers, but on an album it’s wasted space, as is “Microphone Check Intro.” In the end, this is a fan tape that will interest few people beyond the band itself.