The Individuation Quartet/Quintet is a contemporary jazz ensemble which combines aspects of classical minimalism, postminimalism, and world rhythms with modern jazz.
Its sound focuses on rhythm (odd and mixed meters; rhythmic cycles; and polyrhythm); chromaticism drawn from contemporary jazz and classical music; and textural and temporal elements of minimalism.
The group has released two recordings: Individuation (2014) and Dialogical (2019).
The Individuation Quartet is:
Michael Eaton - saxophones
Brad Whiteley - piano
Daniel Ori - bass
Shareef Taher - drums
Other musicians who have been affiliated with the group include:
Travis Reuter - guitar
Enrique Haneine - piano
Brittany Anjou - vibraphone
Akie Bermiss - voice
Dorian Wallace - keyboard
Jon Crowley - trumpet
Scott Colberg - bass
Isaac Darche - guitar
Joe Albano - soprano saxophone
(Header photo by Luis Ruiz: larufoto)
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 its 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 its
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
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