Street Date: May 3, 2019
Label: Destiny Records
Dialogical is Michael Eaton’s sophomore release with Austin, TX-based label, Destiny Records and expands upon the mature, individualistic sonic vision put forth on his 2015 debut recording, Individuation. While that album featured saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman, Dialogical is augmented by Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals. Alongside Eaton on tenor/soprano saxophones is his long-time ensemble consisting of Brad Whiteley on piano, Daniel Ori on bass and gimbri and Shareef Taher on drums. Also featured is Jon Crowley on trumpet, James Brandon Lewis and Sean Sonderegger on tenor saxophones, Cheryl Pyle on flute, Dorian Wallace on piano, Brittany Anjou on vibraphone and gyil, Enrique Haneine on udu and Sarah Mullins on marimba and triangles. With an emphasis on rhythm and texture, Dialogical fuses modern jazz, minimalism, and world music.
Delivered with a certain flow and commonality between all parts, the music heard on Dialogical serves as a presentation of vivid originality. At once, the title refers to the notion of hybridity as articulated by Mikhail Bakhtin, the mid-20th century Russian literary philosopher. Bakhtin suggested that any utterance, whether linguistic or gestural, involves “appropriating the words of others and populating them with one’s own intention.” Reflecting upon this hypothesis, Eaton explores a fusion of jazz as well as the textural and temporal aspects of post-minimalism – “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.” Helping him succeed in the process is the assemblage of this personnel who, in Eaton’s admiration, bring a diverse array of personalities to the cause. United through a shared perspective, the group gives Eaton the opportunity to add to the pool of raw materials upon which he draws, in constructing his own, unique hybrid conception – “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.”
Dialogical opens with “Juno” – a long form tune inspired by Chris Potter’s writing on the albums Gratitude and Traveling Mercies. Here, Eaton deploys Loueke’s voice to wonderful effect on the theme-statement. Broken-up chromatic phrases of “Aphoristic” evoke a Thelonious Monk meets M-BASE quality, while “Cipher” is reminiscent of Osby’s 1990s oeuvre. Carrying through on the “jazz-minimalist-world music convergence”, Eaton incorporates Brittany Anjou’s gyil (Ghanaian xylophone) and vibraphone as well as Enrique Haneine’s udu on the West African-inspired title track. 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, Whiteley on piano, Dorian Wallace on piano and prepared piano and Sarah Mullins on marimba and triangles. “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 over time. By the last movement, I’m using 12-tone rows and structuring chords in various instruments from notes in the row.”
Through its title, tunes and personnel, Dialogical interrelates a diverse musical palette, and aims to communicate such to its audiences in various ways. Regarding this record as just a mere stepping stone in unfolding his dynamic compositional style, Michael Eaton is proud to unveil this recording as something exquisitely fresh and creative.
"Dialogical is revelatory of Eaton’s compositional capacities. It comes full of appealing ideas, including a minimalistic chamber work and mind-bending structures and variations that confer it a triumphant, fresh spirit." Read the full review here.