Whose Hat Is This? was formed in 2015 when Tedeschi Trucks Band members Tim Lefebvre (Bowie), Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell (Col. Bruce Hampton), J.J. Johnson (John Mayer), and Kebbi Williams found themselves with a day off during a European tour. The members decided to take to the stage for an impromptu performance at Berlin’s A-Train. The result was a free-wheeling set of music that resulted in something the members hoped would become more as well as a self-titled debut that left fans of avant-garde music with a deep sense of humor and the spontaneous unable to slake their collective thirst.
Luckily for everyone involved Whose Hat Is This? returns November 16 with a new LP titled Everything’s OK via the Ropeadope imprint. This time out the group has added vocalist Kokayi, whose singular stylings are equal parts Fishbone and Can.
Speaking about the new LP, tenor saxophonist Williams was nothing less than enthusiastic about the new material. “The first record was pure improv,” he says. “We added some post-production and Kokayi’s vocals add a new dimension.”
Kokayi, a friend of Lefebvre’s, had spent time working in the jazz and the hip-hop world, bringing together the larger sense of friendship within the band.
“We’re still hungry and willing to explore,” Williams offers. “We’re going to keep building and have more ideas to introduce in the future. We wanted to expand on the raw energy of the first album.”Talking about the compositional process, the saxophonist adds, “It’s spontaneous. We’re all listening to each other in a micro-second. We don’t bring things in and say, ‘Guys, I want you to play this like I was playing it at home.’ It’s the moment. The energy bouncing off the walls, the people there. Where I’m standing right now is a composition. We write where we are. We’re all brothers. We know each other. If someone makes a move, we trust it and go with it.”
The first track, “chomp-chomp-chomp-Love” sets the pace for an album that is relentless in its sense of discovery and innovation. It’s a free-wheeling ride that imagines Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane set in the middle of New York City last week, extolling the virtues of love amid an indifferent world. Kokayi’s voice becomes a kind of Greek chorus, reporting on the state of the union as it becomes increasingly less united and more and more un-tied. It’s music that demands its own nomenclature, a yet-to-be-determined vocabulary that speaks to the zeitgeist with a similar sense of absurdity and dis-ease.
Though not incapable or articulating the track’s origins Williams offers a laughter-filled response, “Kokayi is just awesome. It came from conversations we were having before the show. We just went out and jumped on it.” At the heart of it and the other tracks is a certain playfulness. “We’re all comedians and we don’t have to be serious. We don’t have to have hits. There’s no pressure like that. Any chance we have to playful, we take it.”
Saturday, Oct. 20 – Cedar Street Social Club – Mobile, AL
Sunday, Oct. 21 – Gasa Gasa – New Orleans, LA
Monday, Oct. 22 – Chizuko – Pensacola, FL
Tuesday, Oct. 23 – The Nick – Birmingham, AL
Wednesday, Oct. 24 – University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, AL
Monday, Dec. 17 – The Hamilton – Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, Dec. 19 – The 8×10 -Baltimore, MD
Thursday, Dec. 20 – Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2) – New York, NY