Racer Sessions

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

Levi Gillis | June 2

Greetings, Racers!

This Sunday we’re thrilled to be hosting our friend Levi Gillis on the Racer stage! Levi has been a long-time member of the Racer Sessions community, and has served for several years as a member of the T&C team, most recently producing our series at Vermillion and helping oversee general operations of our organization. Levi is deeply engaged in the presentation and curation of a wide range of music rooted in Jazz and Americana. His main focus is connecting with the emotional immediacy of American music - the humanity and complexity of the Jazz lineage, the freedom of the avant-garde and the intimacy of American Folk traditions.

After a decade in Seattle, first to pursue his undergraduate at UW’s jazz program, Levi will be returning to his home state of CA to pursue a masters degree at CalArts in Los Angeles. We are going to miss him very much, but are excited to see him build a new series of compositions before he goes, and all the things he accomplishes in this new chapter of his life! Make sure to get yourself to Cafe Racer this weekend for one of the first previews of his new work - set at 8pm, improvs to follow. And read on for some words from Levi on his work, the performance, and his planned prompt for the evening!

“I'm excited to be presenting new music for solo saxophone this coming Sunday. This performance is a step along the way towards putting together a series of new pieces for tenor saxophone and chamber ensemble, supported by grant from Artist Trust (SAVE THE DATE - AUG 16 @ The Chapel!!).

I conceived of the project as a creative shift for me. Usually I compose away from the saxophone (on the piano or guitar) and then add my saxophonic voice. For this music, I wanted to generate the material on the saxophone and add the surrounding sounds after I had solidified saxophonic ideas that could stand on their own as solo pieces. I also wanted to spend some time exploring extended techniques, specifically a few different split tones that I've found work particularly well for me.

Image by Abi Kalkura

Image by Abi Kalkura

Some things I've notices so far:

1) This music hasn't come easily. It hasn't flowed out in a way that some of my other music has.

2) After having played and studied saxophone for so long, this process has helped renew my inspiration on the saxophone. It's helped me get beyond the general feeling of wanting to "get better" (as an improviser and composer) and actively work towards specific compositional or textural ideas on the saxophone. 

3) My relationship to the instrument has been fluctuating recently - at times I feel very close to my instrument, and other times its feels distant. I'm not sure why this occurs.


At the session, these pieces will still be in development.

For the improvs, I thought it might be cool to try just small groups (trio or smaller) for the first hour. Let's shoot to have them all be on the shorter side. And everyone should get a turn to play if they want, so if you're in a group that plays, take a few improvs off to allow for other people to participate. 

Happy to be presenting some early sketches with you all on Sunday!