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Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis effectively started the Young Lions movement upon the release of his 1982 self-titled debut, arguably saving traditional acoustic jazz as we know it in the process. Drummer/vocalist/producer Kassa Overall, born that same year, has since become the kind of genre-blending artist that Marsalis started that movement to fend off. The Brooklyn resident’s 2019 debut, Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz, was a mashup of hip-hop and jazz that succeeded in equal parts because of Overall’s creativity and the element of surprise. Without the latter factor, his sophomore release, I Think I’m Good, comes across as more of a hodgepodge.
For starters, I Think I’m Good is more introspective than Overall’s debut. Too much so. Now 37, he is to be credited for overcoming a manic episode and hospitalization as a student. But moody, sparse, bottom-heavy tracks such as “Visible Walls” and “Please Don’t Kill Me” border on self-obsession despite the estimable efforts of keyboardist Mike King, acoustic bassist Stephan Crump and vibraphonist Joel Ross.
"Find Me” raises the bar with the help of vocalist J Hoard and pianist Aaron Parks, yet the soundtrack-worthy tone poem starts an up-and-down pattern that continues throughout the album. For every highlight like the dramatic “Show Me a Prison,” with a voicemail snippet from political activist Dr. Angela Davis, there are as many lowlights. The plodding “Halfway House” meets halfway between acoustic jazz and sample-laden hip-hop, yet gets stuck in neutral in the process.
Essentially a therapeutic musical autobiography, I Think I’m Good is salvaged late via Overall’s frenetic drumming and spoken-word performance on “Landline,” a duet with brother and tenor saxophonist Carlos Overall, and Vijay Iyer’s electric piano on “Was She Happy,” Overall's closing ode to the late pianist Geri Allen, who employed him in her band for seven years. — Bill Meredith