Michael Eaton: Individuation

Dan Bilawsky By

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Michael Eaton: Individuation
Individuation, as a concept, can be seen as a parallel to the process of making music. In speaking one's own voice through an instrument and/or through composition, individuals manage to direct their imagination and unconscious into something tangible. Saxophonist Michael Eaton knows a thing or two about this, as demonstrated on his aptly-titled debut.

On Individuation, Eaton delivers a program of distinctive originals. Cycling thoughts, sharp twists in direction, scissoring lines, fervent expressions, fenced-in passages, open pastures, thinly-textured episodes, full-tilt full band work, and tightly-woven vamps are all part of the package. The music can be fiery and fearsome ("Alter Ego"), structurally and sonically intriguing ("Guru"), attractive and direct ("You're My Mystery"), quirky and Monk-ish ("Prickly"), patient in its unfolding, or positively petulant. Angularity, minimalistic notions, modern jazz vocabulary, melodic clarity, and boundary-pushing thoughts all mix together here, regardless of whether Eaton is delivering a single song or investigating larger forms like the five-movement title work.

In bringing his music to life, Eaton leverages the talents of his band mates. Pianist Brad Whiteley proves to be the greatest asset here. He builds foundations sympathetic to Eaton's mindset, moves in lockstep with various players, delivers idiosyncratic thoughts, weaves catchy ostinatos into the fabric of the music, and speaks with authority while doing all of it. Then there's drummer Shareef Taher, who can drive the music or simply act as a cog in the machine; guest trumpeter Jon Crowley, who manages to make an impact without the upper register showboating that so many trumpeters resort to; bassists Scott Colberg and Daniel Ori, who both impress on their respective appearances; and guest saxophonist Dave Liebman, who brings a characteristic sense of urgency to the music. Liebman also brings out the best in Eaton, as the younger player works and succeeds at holding his own against the veteran. This is an auspicious debut that marks Eaton as one to watch.

Track Listing

Interior Designs; Guru; Me, But Not Myself; Alter Ego; Prickly; Centrifuge; You're My Mystery; Individuation: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Lifecycle.


Michael Eaton: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jon Crowley: trumpet (1, 3, 6); David Liebman: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone (4, 5, 13); Brad Whiteley: piano, prepared piano (1-4, 7-13); Daniel Ori: bass (3, 4, 6, 8-12); Scott Colberg: bass (1, 2, 5, 13); Shareef Taher: drums (1-6, 8-13).

Album information

Title: Individuation | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Destiny Records

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