Barry ashton jazz festival 2016

The Individuation Quartet/Quintet is a contemporary jazz ensemble aiming to introduce elements of classical minimalism and post minimalism as well as world rhythms into modern jazz.  

Its sound is characterized by rhythmic techniques prevalent in modern jazz (use of odd and mixed meters, rhythmic cycles, and polyrhythm); chromatic harmony drawn from contemporary jazz and classical music; textural, melodic, and temporal aspects of minimalism; and a synthesis of various groove-based musics.  The quartet's first release is Individuation (Destiny Records, 2014), with Dialogical recorded and set for release in first quarter of 2017.

The Individuation Quartet is:

Michael Eaton - saxophones
Brad Whiteley - piano
Daniel Ori - bass
Shareef Taher - drums

The Individuation Quintet adds:
Travis Reuter - guitar

Other musicians who have been affiliated with the group include:

Brittany Anjou - vibraphone
Akie Bermiss - voice
Dorian Wallace - keyboard
Jon Crowley - trumpet
Scott Colberg - bass
Enrique Haneine - piano
Isaac Darche - guitar
Joe Albano - soprano saxophone

(Header photo by Luis Ruiz: larufoto)

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 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 
its 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."
Unofficial APAP showcase at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3 in January 2017.  Photo by Dana Morgan.

Unofficial APAP showcase at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3 in January 2017. Photo by Dana Morgan.

Recording at Sear Sound with very special guest, Lionel Loueke, on guitar.

Recording at Sear Sound with very special guest, Lionel Loueke, on guitar.

At Sear Sound on May 27, 2016 recording "Dialogical".  Photo by Dani Gros.

At Sear Sound on May 27, 2016 recording "Dialogical". Photo by Dani Gros.

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