by Jarrett Hoffman
In one way, saxophonist-composer Steven Banks’ Come As You Are is straightforward: it’s about family, and it’s about church. Its movements are dedicated to his mother and three sisters, and inspired by their favorite spirituals and works of sacred music.
In another way, the piece — which will conclude his free program with pianist Xak Bjerken on October 5 at 7:30 pm in Mixon Hall at CIM, where Banks is a visiting faculty member — is about something more abstract: a merging of different parts of his identity that previously didn’t feel as if they could coexist.
“As a classical musician, the vast majority of my colleagues have little knowledge or understanding of Black culture or how it influences my music-making,” Banks writes in his program note from 2021, when he performed the piece as part of his Young Concert Artists debut recital. “As a Black man from North Carolina, many of my family and friends don’t have a true sense of what I do and love as a classical performer and composer. I have also spent an incredible amount of time and energy on keeping these worlds separate and trying to show up in each as if the other didn’t exist.”