Tim Lefebvre's Whose Hat Is This? Signed to Heartcore Records

Tim Lefebvre's Whose Hat Is This? Signed to Heartcore Records

Whose Hat Is This? is one of the most electrifying improvisational groups to emerge in the last few years. Tim Lefebvre, Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell, JJ Johnson and Kebbi Williams are all alumni of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, a pillar of the American improvised music scene for over a decade. 

Tim Lefebvre’s monstrous bass groove and radical musical fluency have led him to work in a wide array of styles, notably with the legendary David Bowie on his final album Blackstar. Now based in Los Angeles, Lefebvre is currently the bassist for the award-winning Michael Wollny Trio, Italian pop star Tiziano Ferro, improvisational free-jazz group Whose Hat Is This?, his Blackstar bandmate Donny McCaslin and Grammy-nominated artist Rachel Eckroth. Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell’s drumming with The Susan Tedeschi Band, Colonel Bruce Hampton, and Jimmy Herring has helped forge a vibrant future for the American jam band tradition, while JJ Johnson’s work with John Mayer, Charlie Sexton, Doyle Bramhall, Boz Scaggs has connected generations of artists with the ever-evolving continuum of the blues. Kebbi Williams’s saxophone has graced the recordings of Outkast, Mos Def, and Gnarls Barkley to Branford Marsalis and Betty Carter, drawing a line between modern hip-hop and soul and the jazz traditions from which it finds influence. Ponyboy also features Grammy-nominated vocalist and rapper KOKAYI and British pop singer Max Milner on guest vocals and Nataly Cherntsky on piano. Whose Hat Is This? is releasing their latest studio album Ponyboy, recorded at the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, after two acclaimed live improvisational releases in 2017 and 2018.  

“Back at it after seven years, Whose Hat returns in triumphant form, somehow even bolder and rawer than before. Unorthodox and unexpected with every track, Ponyboy harnesses the electric improvisational mastery that this seasoned outfit pulls off so effortlessly. Led by one of the greatest bass players to ever do it, Tim Lefebvre’s monstrous grooves abandon all cliché and serve as the engine of these six eclectic songs. As a whole, Ponyboy is a celebration of musicianship at its highest level with its own imprint so avant-garde and so its own, that it somehow breaks through to the mainstream as an undeniably enjoyable album.”

Jon D’Auria– Bass Magazine

The incredible virtuosity and visceral energy that each band member brings to Whose Hat Is This? is on full display on Ponyboy. “Everybody in this band loves to rock out and play instinctually,” says Lefebvre of his bandmates and indeed, the visceral energy of Ponyboy is palpable. The album opens with “Over Under,” a song that came from a propulsive rhythmic vamp by Johnson, melding with spurts of Lefebvre’s muscular bass while William’s jagged saxophone lines punctuate through the din. KOKAYI’s witty, acerbic lyrics sail over the fray, riffing on xenophobic class structures, skyrocketing rents, and the gentrification of New York’s oldest neighborhoods. Lefebvre says, We composed Ponyboy with KOKAYI in mind…his ears are so huge. That’s what’s making this cook with gas.The fuzzy building-leveling backbeat of “Pur Sun” moves like a wrecking ball, its gravity pulsing the song towards KOKAYI’s chorus: “We all need a bit sunshine/A little water so that we grow,” the band strutting with such overwhelming confidence that the sentiment comes across like a revolutionary chant. On “Diamonds”, Max Milner’s limber voice rises out of the band’s hypnotic polyrhythmic phrases, lulling the listener into a dreamworld before William’s solo spills out of his horn like molten mercury. Ponyboy’s longest and most progressive track, “Unnnnhhhh'', swelters in a minimalist horizon of synthesizer and flute before Lefebvre’s bass takes center stage, his signature 808-inflected flat-wound thump segueing into motorik synthesizer lines and groaning melodic lines against clusters of Willam’s horns and Greenwell and Johnson’s dueling drums. 

The title Ponyboy comes from the character in S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders. The band all feel like outsiders in their respective musical worlds, and indeed all the members of the band are far from traditionalists. On Ponyboy, Whose Hat Is This? explore the outer reaches of the groove, finding connections between far-flung musical lineages through the sheer rapture of playing music together. In an era of social unrest and pop commodification, this unlikely gang of musical misfits might just be the supergroup we need.
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