Kaleigh Wilder “Placemaking”

An old, buried energy is awoken on Detroit saxophonist and composer Kaleigh Wilder’s cathartic Placemaking from the moment opener “Invocation of the Ancestors” rains in. Working with percussionist Everett Reid across this collection of seven pieces (eight including the alternate take of “These Tears I Cry), Wilder explores the spaces within and finds new ways of building connections. Her music thrives in the moment, digging out pure expression in the emotional landscape as it breaks apart.

The two non-improvised pieces, “Dyad” and “These Tears I Cry,” sing in their focus and restraint. “Dyad,” which Wilder describes as “an orchestrated, improvisatory piece” (so it kind of skirts the line between the two), moves like two conjoined twins, intertwined in unseen ways and impossible to separate. In the first half, Wilder and Reid zigzag through time, electrifying in their energetic runs leaving sharp-edged pathways in their wake. Reid pushes the tempo and Wilder blast intermittent fire, burning away the barriers. Once the second half swings into view, the cadence slows and the brimstone purification turns to introspective silhouettes. There’s a haunting beauty to this stretch with Reid’s hollow percussion creating a soft bed for Wilder’s emotive playing to flourish. 

“These Tears I Cry,” however, slithers in the cracks, hiding an embedded vulnerability in the drawn-out solemn tones and gentle arrangement. Broken streets decay beneath flickering streetlights as Wilder’s contemplative notes are searching, hoping the sadness rippling off each passage is being heard. It’s a common feeling throughout Placemaking; delicate messages imbued with a sense of sorrow and wrath provoking a response in listeners and leaving just enough space to twist in our own experience and reaction. 

Tracks like the cleansing fury of “GUILTY ON ALL THREE” and the melting sonic monuments of “Contemplation” craft a pensive narrative. The latter is a solo exploration of the things we keep most guarded with Wilder’s baritone a scalpel to make precise cuts so the feelings can flow and a place to heal can grow. Quiet interludes gather the strength of her billowing improvisations, injecting them with a deeper power. As the piece finds a conclusive place to lay its head, Wilder’s saxophone growls like an animal serenading the stars. It’s heavy and freeing. Similar energy runs through Reid’s solo drum exodus, “I,” adding a different texture to the visceral mountain.

Kaleigh Wilder’s creative practice is a welcoming place and Placemaking is an incredible document, taking a singular moment and etching it into the Earth. Wilder has produced something ageless and saturated with an ancient spirit that will lift up anyone within earshot.  Placemaking challenges us as listeners to open up the closed-off spaces within ourselves and stop hiding all these scars.


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