Photo | The Press House
Whose Hat is This? comprises Tedeschi Trucks Band members saxophonist Kebbi Williams, drummer JJ Johnson, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell.
Band: Whose Hat is This?
Date: Saturday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m.
Venue: Cedar Street Social Club, 4 N. Cedar St., www.cedarstreetsocialclub.com
Tickets: Call 251-378-8028
Occasionally, touring musicians have pockets of free days sprinkled throughout their itinerary. While some opt to explore cities and sample the local culture, four members of the Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB) use the down time to explore new musical realms in between shows and tour runs, as Whose Hat is This?
Whose Hat is This? pulls together the eclectic talents of TTB bassist Tim Lefebvre, saxophonist Kebbi Williams and drummers J.J. Johnson and Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell. Those unfamiliar with this group’s sound should not expect the guitar-heavy, blues jam overtures for which TTB is known. Before the band’s next album “Everything’s Okay” (featuring hip-hop artist Kokayi) hits on Nov. 16, Whose Hat is This? will perform for a crowd at Cedar Street Social Club.
Whose Hat is This? is rooted in improvisational jazz with touches of electronica, but don’t be surprised to hear traces of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. This fusion allows the band to create a unique experience at every show, giving their music an inventive edge bordering on art. However, he also adds their ambient jazz jams might have the crowd dancing one minute and scratching their heads the next.
“If people are into live art, that’s one thing that we do bring to the table,” Lefebvre said. “It’s pure improv. So, it’s just a thing that happens. It’s not an easy listen for everyone. It requires patience from the audience, and hopefully they’ll like it.”
The birth of Whose Hat is This? is a story filled with the same improvisational vibes that feed the band’s creations. While on a European tour run with TTB, Lefebvre says the band had a few days off in Berlin. Instead of spending leisure time in this German city, the bandmates decided they’d rather perform. Lefebvre’s experience in the jazz scene had allowed him to make connections with several club owners in Europe, one of which is The A-Trane International Jazz Club in Berlin. After calling club owner Sedal Sardan, Whose Hat is This? began to take shape.
“I texted [Sardan] and said, ‘Hey man, we’re going to be in town. Do you want to book us?’” explained Lefebvre. “The plan was just to improvise. Sedal just said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So, we did it and recorded it, and that became our first record. We were on tour and just wanted to do a gig on a couple of days off. The journey kind of went from there.”
When the quartet took the stage in Berlin, Lefebvre knew this combination was something special. The seasoned jazz artist felt that every spontaneous measure was something “different” and “compelling.” Lefebvre’s bass combined with Johnson and Greenwell’s twofold drum work created a rhythmic canvas for Williams to paint with colorful abstract tones, which Lefebvre says cast an electrifying energy through the club. For a group of musicians routinely immersed in the guitar-dominant world of TTB, Lefebvre says this new context allows the members to embark on improvisational musical explorations without boundaries.
“Kebbi brings this improvisational flair and some meaty, incredible weird stuff that nobody plays,” said Lefebvre. “I’m into electronica and drum and bass, and people making creative sounds. The two-drum thing and what I hear from the bass ends up sounding like electronica to me. I have all this space to create this electronica kind of thing or super quirky grooves. Not having a guitar allows you to do that. You don’t have to follow a lead. You can do your own thing.”
The inaugural gig also inspired the band’s unique moniker, since the band didn’t have time to come up with a name. After taking a set break, Johnson returned to find a hat resting on his snare drum. Johnson’s microphoned inquiries to find the owner of the hat seemed to resonate. Ultimately, their choice could be considered as impulsive as the band’s music.
Fans should not expect a studio album from Whose Hat is This? In fact, Lefebvre says the band has recorded just one song in the studio, which will be used by the bassist’s pedal sponsor Pigtronix. However, Lefebvre described the band’s studio time as a “raw” session that “felt really good.”
Whose Hat is This? recognizes their vibe is best experienced in a musically limitless live setting. Its self-titled debut and upcoming release “Everything’s Okay” are both live albums. Lefebvre says the only thing edited from these recordings are the occasional “dead spots” between songs. Otherwise, both albums provide listeners with a “flow of the show.”
With TTB prepping for another run of shows, locals should take advantage of the band’s visit to the Cedar Street Social Club. When Whose Hat is This? takes the stage, the crowd can expect a musical thrill ride. Lefebvre says their set will be “highly energetic and very sonic.”
“There is no plan for anything,” Lefebvre said. “We just go out and start creating. That’s also the fun part. Whatever mood somebody is in dictates where the set will begin or end. It’s pure rebellion and pure creation, although we always resort to some stuff that we already know. More or less, it’s creating from scratch as a group.”