Racer Sessions

Sundays, 8-10pm at Cafe Racer in Seattle, WA

Evan Smith presents This Sunday

Greetings, fans of the Avant!

This Sunday (tonight!), we are happy to be presenting Evan Smith. Evan is an innovative teacher and versatile performer on both saxophone and clarinet able to span numerous musical genres. He holds degrees in saxophone performance and music education from the University of Washington, University of Northern Iowa, and James Madison University. Perhaps most pertinent regarding his performance tonight is that Evan is a stalwart advocate for new and creative music.

Evan has written a wonderful and detailed blog for us, so read on below, and make sure you come through Cafe Racer at 8pm for his session, and the jam to follow. See you there!


"Much of my musical practice happens in the extreme time ranges of rehearsal and performance preparation.  I’ve always enjoyed interpreting what many would define as “classical” music, and have spent months and years preparing and performing a single piece of repertoire.  As a saxophonist, the community involved in this approach to the instrument can feel quite insular; and, I’ve heard no shortage of jokes about the viability of the saxophone as a classical instrument.  For me, playing in a “classical” style just means that I’m employing a different sound concept that I do in my jazz playing while working to craft the minutia of timbral possibilities available to the instrument in a way I may not be called to do in a more traditional jazz context.  Through my classical studies, I’ve been inspired by the musical language of a diverse set of composers and have enjoyed working with my contemporaries and interpreting their compositions through my own background on my chosen instrument. 

Evan Smith

Evan Smith

This part of my musical output allows and encourages me to obsess about small details and analyze sound from all angles across a long duration of time, comparing the daily variations of my interactions with the saxophone.  However, I have found the mental nature of this instrumental practice often causes me to stall out on compositions I once began with motivation and enthusiasm.  Rather than capturing the essence of an idea and workshopping it or presenting it to the public, I too-often fret about whether each decision I made is the “best” possible outcome.

On the other end, my relationship with jazz continues to trend toward free improvisation, perhaps as I am able to more carefully consider and employ the sonic palette I work to cultivate in my classical practice.  Furthermore, the immediacy of free improvisation (particularly within a group context) subverts the frame of mind that I employ in my classical preparations.  Of course, my improvisations are still informed by all of my practice, whether it be classical repertoire or “straight-ahead” jazz.

For this session, I am very fortunate to be joined by Kelsey Mines (bass) and Evan Woodle (drums).  After they very generously agreed to perform with me, I set a goal of writing several compositions that would each be started and completed in one sitting, forcing myself to make musical decisions quickly and navigate some of the tendencies I’ve identified in myself as a practicing musician, composer, and improviser.  At this set, I will be focusing on the alto saxophone and channeling saxophone giants who have had a great influence on my musical language such as Yusef Lateef, Ornette Coleman, and Anthony Braxton.

My hope for the session to follow would simply be that everyone uses the time and interaction with musicians to contemplate their own musical interests and tendencies and bring them forward in their own performance.  For me, this means intentionally embracing and reinforcing a pattern one may recognize in themselves, or perhaps purposefully contrasting that nature, if even for just one evening of improvisation!"