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A session of flow, feel and flair from Kassa Overall

Erin Bagatta

At the start of his Studio Milwaukee Session, Kassa Overall stood in the center of our stage, snapping his fingers as he laid down a few lines a capella from “Maybe We Can Stay” off his most recent album, Animals. Everyone in the room familiar with Kassa’s work knew what he was building to. Those of us meeting him for the first time (myself included) were about to find out.

Already comfortable on stage — evidenced by his rapid-fire, stumble-free delivery — he settled in behind his drum kit as Ian Finkelstein on keyboards and Giulio Xavier Cetto on bass eased into the proceedings. The trio then created the type of seamless, seemingly effortless performance that’s only possible when both talent and chemistry are off the charts.

At the top of the set, Kassa gave Radio Milwaukee’s Tarik Moody a shout for playing one of his songs on Sound Opinions back in 2019 and giving him a shot of confidence (and some cred with his “NPR-head” mom). In Kassa’s words, it “really put a battery in my back.” He returned the favor with three songs that put a charge into the room as each musician on stage got a chance to shine, including his own drum explorations that elicited hollers from the crowd.

During the interview break, Moody took our guest from coast to coast, asking how his sound was shaped by his early days in Seattle (rain = practice time) and later period in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Kassa also talked about the tricky intersection of music and mental health, and a somewhat surprising connection to the Wisconsin governor’s mansion.

Speaking of the state capital, Kassa Overall will be part of the Madison Jazz Festival, performing on the Memorial Union Terrace at 6:30 p.m. June 17. More immediately, he’ll be down in Chicago tomorrow, June 6, at the Empty Bottle for a 9 p.m. show. You also can listen to Animals and the rest of his catalog on all streaming platforms, or pick them up via his Bandcamp page.

Enjoy the Studio Milwaukee Session using the player at the top of the page, and take the enjoyment to an entirely different level by actually being in the room for our next one — and every one after that. Just head over to our donation page and become a member today.

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Set list

  1. “Maybe We Can Stay”
  2. “Make My Way Back Home”
  3. “Who’s on the Playlist”