“Serious play” may be a cliché by now, but it exemplifies the spirit that dances through this set. Apropos to the title, the emphasis is on mutuality: unison melody lines dissolving into contrapuntal interplay (both improvised and otherwise); shifting time signatures (often juxtaposed against one another); abrupt alterations in voicing. The dialectic between group cohesion and individual expression results in an appropriately paradoxical tension between thematic continuity and fluidity.
At times, an additional creative tension—between harmony and dissonance—makes itself felt. “Thanatos and Eros” starts with a dialogue between Cheryl Pyle’s flute and Eaton’s soprano sax, and their interplay—sometimes easy and free-flowing, sometimes at apparent cross-purposes—reflects the tautness implied by the title (the forces of death and renewal, locked in eternal embrace). After a brief interlude, the rest of the ensemble weighs in with a characteristically shape-shifting, rhythmically variegated theme, featuring an undulating, exploratory piano statement from Brad Whiteley and some lithe, full-bodied sax work from Eaton. (“Machinic Eros,” a brief sax-flute duet, sounds almost like a reimagining of the “Thanatos and Eros” intro, but this time the two voices resolve themselves into a rich, harmonious blend.)