Discussing music and musical genres is fundamentally a question of tradition: of established norms and customs passed down and broken up throughout the years in a long game of artistic telephone. The message on the other end is one in flux, an amalgamation of all that came before it, and packed with the seeds of what is yet to take root. DJ Shadow’s seminal track from Endtroducing… “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt“ contains the iconic samples of the late jazz drummer George Marsh reflecting on the relationship he has with his own artistic development, “I’m a student of the drums, and I’m also a teacher of the drums too, you know?”
This ethos permeated Shigeto’s presentation of Evocation, a series of performances that took place on September 4th at Spot Lite Detroit. Beginning with a solo harp performance by Ahya Simone, the night progressed with two sets featuring the full band comprised of legendary alto saxophone player, bandleader, and mentor Vincent York, Marcus Eliot on tenor saxophone, Ian Fink on keys, Josef Deas on upright bass, the great Dez Andrés on percussion, and Shigeto behind the kit. Coinciding with the Detroit Jazz Festival, the group explored the history of an art form that’s seen many iterations. What followed was a rumination on the dynamic relationship between teachers and students of jazz, and explorations of reinvention that paid homage to those who paved the way.
Broadcasted live on both Shigeto and Spot Lite Detroit’s accounts, the musician-friendly venue acted as a de facto member of the group providing ambience and a positive space for audience members to safely gather. As the band re-worked and aired out old standards, the spirits of Alice Coltrane and Joe Henderson could be felt in each rendition as if whispered like a spell. Similar to how the term “deep listening” seeks to track the sounds and vibes in a work that transcends its composition, the emotional weight of these performances went far beyond what was physically played. Evocation was the accumulation of a shared tradition that, expressed in its full resonance, will continue to hum long after the last sound wave collapses into memory, laying in wait for someone else to come along and pick it back up.
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