Coming July 5, 2024: The Phenomenal (Mother Brain Records)

Art by Liam Warr and design by Paul Razo.

Saxophonist and composer Michael Eaton announces the July 5, 2024 release of his third album as a leader, The Phenomenal, on the Kansas City, MO-based Mother Brain Records.  After two studio albums on Destiny Records, Individuation (2014) with NEA Jazz Master David Liebman and Dialogical (2016) with guitarist Lionel Loueke, Eaton, and Individuation return with a new installment of minimalist-inspired, 20th-century classical, and electronically-inflected modern jazz.  Here “phenomenal” signals the opportunities and vicissitudes of navigating the material world; that which appears in our senses and the place in which our lived experience happens.

 Recorded after eight years and three tours of Individuation’s history as an ensemble, The Phenomenal features Brad Whiteley (piano), Daniel Ori (bass), and Shareef Taher (drums).  In the wake of the Covid pandemic, Eaton felt an urgency to bring together three musicians with whom he had been working before and during lockdown: Tim Hagans (trumpet), Dave Scott (trumpet), and Judi Silvano (voice). 

Out now! The Transcendental on Steeplechase Records

Available on CD and digital (Amazon) or stream on all major streaming platforms.  

Pianist Nicki Adams and saxophonist Michael Eaton push musical boundaries in original jazz and Third Stream music for duo on “The Transcendental”

On their first outing for Steeplechase Records, Paraphrase (SCCD 33148), pianist Nicki Adams and saxophonist Michael Eaton introduced their duo, playing music from celebrated and genre-defining jazz composers: Coltrane, Hancock, Shorter, Monk, Hill, and Hagans.  In both their arrangements and original music, they interwove elements and ideas from Western classical music, in large part through Adams’s sparkling piano playing and elegant pianistic textures drawn from Romantic piano literature.

Eaton and Adams are proud now to release The Transcendental, their second album for the Steeplechase LookOut Series, and the next step forward for the duo's developing mix of modern jazz and Third Stream elements.

Composer Gunther Schuller coined "Third Stream" in 1961 to reflect a genre combining "the improvisational spontaneity and rhythmic vitality of jazz with the compositional procedures and techniques acquired in Western [classical] music".  On The Transcendental, Adams and Eaton similarly look to classical inspirations, finding them in impressionist harmonic color, twelve tone abstraction, and minimalist rhythmic repetition.

Their signature emerges in full force throughout the titular "Transcendental".  Based on the painting of the same name by Richard Pousette-Dart, it flows through a series of musical episodes combining carefully crafted melodic serialism with open improvisations.

Adams cites early 20th-century Eastern European composers Bartók and Khachaturian as influences on the harmonic language of “Myshkin” and “Crying Out in the Wilderness.” Echoing gospel and blues phrasing, the saxophone sings through the piano textures, embracing spiritual undertones.

Minimalism makes its mark on Eaton's "Intrinsic Value" and "The Capitalinian", pitting saxophone and piano against each other in pulsating polyrhythmic and mixed meter atmospheres.  Fitting for their environmental emphasis, these pieces contain multiple musical territories in one.

Adams and Eaton also delve once again into music from a jazz master, this time selecting Joe Henderson.  They reimagine Henderson’s pensive “Black Narcissus” through the serene but mercurial mood of Ravel’s piano work, "Ondine”.  "Afrocentric” recasts the original charging and buoyant Afro-latin tune into a melancholy ballad, and Adams deploys clever displacements of metric emphasis on the classic jazz proving ground, “Inner Urge”.

The Transcendental continues from where Paraphrase left off, a second chapter portraying a thoughtful and musical duo in the process of developing its voice, imagining still closer integrations of jazz and classical music to come.

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