Michael Eaton | Dialogical

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Dialogical

by Michael Eaton

A vividly original album expanding on a mature, individualistic sonic vision combining jazz, world music, and classical minimalism.
Genre: Jazz: Modern Creative Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Juno
10:29 $0.99
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2. Anthropocene
7:56 $0.99
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3. Aphoristic
6:47 $0.99
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4. Thanatos and Eros
2:42 $0.99
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5. Cipher
5:59 $0.99
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6. Dialogical
8:17 $0.99
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7. Machinic Eros
2:25 $0.99
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8. I and Thou
12:34 $0.99
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9. Temporalities, Pt. I
5:30 $0.99
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10. Temporalities, Pt. II
4:07 $0.99
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11. Temporalities, Pt. III
5:56 $0.99
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12. Temporalities, Pt. IV
5:00 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
On Michael Eaton’s vividly original second album on Destiny Records, Dialogical, the 38-year-old saxophonist-composer-educator expands on the mature, individualistic sonic vision that he put forth on his exceptional 2015 debut recording, Individuation.

On that 13-song album, inspired by seminal psychologist Carl Jung’s tenet that self-actualization is achieved through a process of assimilating the unconscious elements that constitute an individual’s psyche into conscious life, Eaton convened his working New York quartet, trumpeter Jon Crowley and, for three head-to-head encounters, saxophone guru David Liebman. In this instance, the unconscious elements might be located in the deeply internalized knowledge of postbop saxophone vocabulary that Eaton applies to a capacious toolkit. He organizes percolating vamps culled from a world array of rhythms into structures inspired by the canon of pioneering Minimalist composer Steve Reich. Intervallically angular freebop lines coexist with Cageian prepared piano and multi-layered open platforms. Fully in command of his materials, Eaton blends disparate ingredients with the holistic touch of a master chef, displaying an unfailingly melodic sensibility, an abiding feel for groove, a keen sense of proportion, and a command of form that allowed his partners maximal creative freedom.

“I view this record as the next step in unfolding my compositional style, which is still feeling its baby steps,” Eaton says of Dialogical. The title references the notion of hybridity as articulated by the mid-20th century Russian literary philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, who postulated that any utterance, whether linguistic or gestural, involves “appropriating the words of others and populating them with one's own intention.”“I’m exploring a fusion of jazz and the textural and temporal aspects of post-minimalism,” he continues. “I’m thinking about how the minimalist canon might provide a different way of looking at the overlapping or looping rhythmic cycles that are utilized in modern jazz by people like Steve Coleman, Dave Holland and Chris Potter.”

In the process, Eaton adds to the pool of raw materials upon which he draws in constructing his hybrid conception, and also to his circle of documented collaborators. “I’ve wanted to bring together people I’ve worked with who have an interesting and diverse array of personalities and share a certain viewpoint,” he says. “I want to interface different styles, to see how they all reflect different parts of me, how they give me an opportunity to play with these people.”

First and foremost on Eaton’s wish list was the eminent Beninese guitarist-vocalist Lionel Loueke, whose c.v. includes consequential associations with such pan-stylistic jazz avatars as Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, and Chick Corea, who regard him as a peer.

Eaton had recently received a degree in Jazz Studies from the Jacobs School of Music at the University of Indiana when he first saw Loueke play with Hancock in 2006 at the Indianapolis Jazz Festival. He’d matriculated there in 1999, after developing his saxophone and woodwind skills in Liberty, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City where he was born in June 1981. Once in college, Eaton studied with celebrated classical saxophonist Eugene Rousseau, and with Tom Walsh, “an outstanding pedagogue” who plays both classical and jazz saxophone.

“I was blown away by Lionel’s artistry and ideas on a free-improvised introduction to a song,” Eaton recalls. In 2012, four years after Eaton moved to Brooklyn, he met Loueke at a jam session during a birthday party for the drummer George Mel, who Eaton describes as “instrumental in introducing me to a lot of the people I play with now.” He continues: “We played tunes and standards for a couple of hours, and Lionel was encouraging and very nice. In 2015, I contacted him on Facebook and asked if he remembered me from George’s party and if he’d be interested in recording. He consented to play. I sent him the mp3s with a percussion click track. He memorized all of it. I think he knew the music better than we did.”

Loueke performs on four selections with Eaton and his resourceful quartet, all colleagues of long standing (pianist Brad Whiteley, bassist Daniel Ori, and drummer Shareef Taher). On the set-opening “Juno,” a long form tune inspired by Potter’s writing on the albums Gratitude and Traveling Mercies, Eaton deploys Loueke’s voice to wonderful effect on the theme-statement, then transitions to an opening section on which Ori’s resonant ostinato ties together the shifting meters that propel and interweave with Loueke’s timbrally elastic, dancing guitar solo. The time opens up as Eaton says his piece across several heroic choruses, and morphs into Indo-African directions for Whiteley’s powerful declamation.

Dynamic Indian rhythms inform the opening section of “Anthropocene,” a melody inspired by a Lydian dominant scale that vocalist R.A. Ramamani sang over a sitar drone on saxophonist Charlie Mariano’s “Varshini,” from Jyothi (ECM), a 1983 date on which Mariano encountered the Karnataka College of Percussion. There follows a section with mixed meters and a strong melodic theme, then a section “vaguely inspired” by Eaton’s “conception of Metal transposed to Jazz,” and then an intense “burnout” section with a strong, fast set of chord changes on which Eaton and Loueke shred fiery solos. “I’m trying to expand form and do different things with an episodic framework, rather than just a head-solo-head format,” Eaton says. “The song addresses my concern about climate change, though I didn’t want to hit people over the head with it.”

The broken-up chromatic phrases of “Aphoristic” evoke a Thelonious Monk meets M-BASE quality. In conjuring both the title and the form, Eaton drew inspiration from an interview in which Steve Reich quoted philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s line, “How small a thought it takes to fill a life,” and by the contents of the 1999 Blue Note classic Friendly Fire, a Joe Lovano-Greg Osby collaboration. Eaton and Loueke uncork cogent, burning solos over an odd-meter loop. “I was thinking about the idea of aphorisms and how to translate that into a musical domain,” Eaton says. “It’s another bifurcated tune, with a series of chord changes in one section and more of a vamp in the other.”

Osby’s 1990s oeuvre inspired Eaton in composing “Cipher,” a chromatic, mixed-meters piece on which he varies the tonal palette by showcasing his tart alto saxophone voice, joined by the quartet unaugmented.

The leader incorporates Brittany Anjou’s gyil (Ghanaian xylophone) and vibraphone and Enrique Haneine’s udu on the West African-inspired title track. It’s another “jazz-minimalist-world music convergence” piece on which Loueke sings the opening refrain in unison with Eaton’s tenor saxophone, and then conjures a magical guitar solo, before Eaton’s own grand declamation.

Daniel Ori plays the Moroccan ghembri to introduce “I and Thou,” a North African inflected composition that showcases Tenor Triage, a cooperative unit with tenor saxophonists Sean Sonderegger (left channel, first solo) and James Brandon Lewis (right channel, second solo), who first shared a bandstand with Eaton (center, third solo) during a 2015 concert celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the studio recording of John Coltrane’s Ascension. “We get into loopy, repetitive sections on which I was thinking of Steve Coleman’s music,” Eaton says. “But the solo sections, which proceed over vamps, are very free. It’s very rewarding to play with the three tenors — rough-housing, boxing, sparring, that kind of masculine world.”

Amidst the kinetic quartet tracks, Eaton interpolates “Thanatos and Eros” and “Machinic Eros” both unpremeditated, tabula rasa duos on which he intertwines his serpentine soprano saxophone voice with master flutist Cheryl Pyle, a frequent partner in recent years, not only in the duo space, but in open encounters with such modern masters as the late harmolodic guitarist Bern Nix, saxophonist Daniel Carter, drummer Newman Taylor Baker, and pianist Roberta Piket.

The proceedings conclude with a primarily through-composed four-movement suite that Eaton describes as a classical chamber ensemble piece, scored for Anjou on vibraphone and bowed vibraphone, Pyle on flute, Crowley on trumpet, Dorian Wallace on piano and prepared piano, Sarah Mullins on marimba and triangles, and the Individuation Quartet members.

“It’s a homage to Steve Reich and the Sextet-Octet genre he’s written in — that language, my ideas,” Eaton says. “The movements are structured around how I handle rhythm, which I want to complexify or to change. At times I’m trying to use 12-tone rows and to structure things with a definite intervallic basis.”

“Dialogism pertains to the idea that you can have a dialogue between different perspectives and languages,” the thoughtful virtuoso concludes. “I wanted the different kinds of musics I’m interested in to be present in the program, and to have their interplay united in a larger concept that highlights their interrelations. The concept of dialogism is a useful one to help me understand where and how I am situated within jazz. For example, jazz itself is a synthesis of an Afrocentric rhythmic matrix with Western European harmony in its origins, and then jazz and West African influences in turn inform Steve Reich’s music. There are textures, rhythms, and sounds you can get from free playing that dialogue with more traditional playing. All these things can relate on various levels, with rhythm being a main factor in dialogue. I wanted to do something with a larger group that could be fully notated, that didn’t have to swing or be free or whatever. That comes back to the beginning of my experience, when I had classical training and then jazz. I wanted to challenge myself to do something I’d never done before.”

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