Last February, Kassa Overall, a Seattle native who came up drumming in the Garfield High School band, released Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz, a charming album that fuses jazz and hip-hop so completely it sounds as though they’d never been distinct genres to begin with. If it wasn’t exactly a debut for Overall—he’s been a fixture in the New York jazz scene for years—it was his first record as bandleader. Now, a year later, he’s returned with a follow-up, I Think I’m Good, which he’ll play at the Triple Door a couple days after its release.
The new album is both a continuation and a departure. Overall—drumming, producing, writing, and providing vocals, along with a host of collaborators—still treats genre as an irrelevancy, but sets out for more turbulent waters. He explores the U.S. prison system and his struggles with mental illness: a manic episode, a hospitalization as a student. That’s something he’s long wanted to address in his music, he told me, but he didn’t want it to harm his career as a drummer for others.
The darker content is mirrored aesthetically. He leaves behind the cool fluency of Go Get Ice Cream for wilder, experimental jazz influences—think A Love Supreme, maybe, or Ornette Coleman—while drawing on more potent rap strains. “I wanted the drums to be competitive with Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg,” Overall says. Those old influences converge in something new. As is so often the case, a look back—the album’s cover is his Washington Middle School yearbook photo—becomes a step forward.
► Kassa Overall, Mar 1, Triple Door, $15