Michael Eaton - Individuation

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Michael Eaton
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Saxophonist and composer Michael Eaton launches his debut album as a leader, Individuation (Destiny Records), in the company of his hero and mentor Dave Liebman. Joined by his working rhythm section, the Missouri native and Brooklyn resident delivers a set exhibiting his artistic and personal development, bridging the worlds of lyrical themes, intricately rhythmic minimalistic vamps, bracing freebop, Cageian prepared piano, and multi-layered open terrains. The title refers to a core tenet of Jungian psychology, whereby the unconscious elements of the individual are brought into conscious life. "Individuation refers not only to my growth as a person," remarks Eaton, "but also what it means to be an artist." Jazz musicians are endeavored to immerse themselves in the tradition of their craft while still developing their own unique voice-a duality Eaton addresses throughout the album. Growing up in the rich heritage of Kansas City jazz followed by a formative period in the fertile jazz and creative music scenes in Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana, Eaton moved New York in 2008 to begin his next phase as an artist. After working with Liebman in a 2012 summer workshop, Eaton knew that recording with the master musician was a logical next step. 'This recording was about the opportunity to record with a model of mine and to experience something like the apprenticeship system, which our generation isn't able to live.' "I first heard Dave Liebman when I was 16,' Eaton recounts, 'playing on a blues track. I was blown away. It opened my mind to possibilities I wasn't aware existed before, particularly rhythmically. I consider him one of the most advanced conceptualists in jazz, with one foot in the traditional harmonic world and one foot in the avant-garde." Fast-forward to the present, and their encounter is a bit like trial by fire in the crucible of heated post-Coltrane catharsis. On 'Alter Ego,' 'Prickly,' and 'Lifecycle,' Eaton responds to the language of a master with his own story, forging a more personal artistry in the process. In "Alter Ego," as Liebman's tenor saxophone makes it's entrance, Eaton is momentarily face to face with his 16 year old self where his aspirations become a reality and the sound of the two saxophones briefly intertwine before Liebman takes the lead. The interplay is quickly renewed and expanded on "Prickly," where Eaton's tenor and Liebman's soprano freely exchange ideas over a swing tempo with no harmonic constraints. Besides the meetings with the master-Eaton's dark tone contrasting to the keening knife's edge of Liebman's soprano and tenor-the duality of Individuation is evident in it's compositional choices. In pieces like 'Individuation,' 'Guru' (the latter written for Liebman's workshop), and 'Me, But Not Myself,' an intricate composed process emerges, connecting the music of odd meter modern jazz, such as Dave Holland or Steve Coleman, with music from West Africa and Western classical minimalism. "My two main favorite minimalists are Steve Reich and John Adams. Reich represents a very specific application of rhythms from another tradition and cultural context, and his music exemplifies a deeper marriage of Western and non-Western values, which jazz already exemplifies.' This marriage is vividly revealed in Eaton's incorporation of prepared piano. "The prepared piano is a bridge between past and future," describing the sound as proto-electronic. 'It's the piano as a drum.' Played by Destiny Records labelmate Brad Whiteley and prepared by composer Dorian Wallace, the modifications to the piano were inspired by John Cage's gamelan-like sonorities in the Sonata & Interludes for Prepared Piano. Eaton's working rhythm section includes Whiteley, whom he met as classmates in Indiana, and drummer Shareef Taher and bassists Daniel Ori and Scott Colberg, each connections made in New York. Guest trumpeter Jon Crowley is one of Eaton's closest friends and colleagues, and the two have often discussed the Jungian psychology that gives the album it's name. This process of individuation-from rite of passage with a mentor, to combining the streams of jazz, free improvisation, and beyond into his own story-informs Eaton's debut album. In the lineage of his heroes, he concludes, "The goal of individuation is differentiating uniqueness out of the general, as well as greater awareness. Individuation enriches the art form by introducing new elements and expanding it. I see jazz and the avant-garde as one continuum, and my approach is to bring out new meanings in those relationships.'

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1) Interior Designs
2) Guru
3) Me But Not Myself
4) Alter Ego
5) Prickly
6) Centrifuge
7) You're My Mystery
8) Individuation: Part 1
9) Individuation: Part 2
10) Individuation: Part 3
11) Individuation: Part 4
12) Individuation: Part 5
13) Lifecycle

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Individuation | Michael Eaton