All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Saxophonist Phillip Johnston founded The Microscopic Septet in 1980 when the group briefly counted John Zorn as one of its members. They recorded four albums and were a regular presence in New York's downtown scene before disbanding in 1992. In 2006 Cuneiform Records re-released the four albums leading to the reformation of the group and presently, to their new release Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues.

Johnston and pianist Joel Forrester, saxophonist Dave Sewelson and bassist Dave Hofstra were all members of the original group. However, drummer Richard Dworkin and saxophonist Don Davis followed closely, both coming on board in the early 1980s. Only tenor saxophonist Mike Hashim is a later arrival, having joined the band shortly after the reformation in 2007.

If any of their album titles crystalizes the essence of the The Micros, it is Surrealistic Swing: The History of the Micros, Vol. 2 (Cuneiform Records, 2006). Johnston and Forrester, who evenly divide the writing credits on this album, share an affinity—if not an outright insistence—for a swing-based criteria. Yet throughout their recordings, there is a progressive bent that makes the music feel neither nostalgic nor avant-garde but somewhere in-between. Each of fourteen compositions on Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me share that aesthetic sense but each with its own idiosyncrasy.

"Cat Toys" could be out of the 1940s save for an appealing—and technically modern—bass solo from Hofstra. "Blues Cubistico," with its swinging dance rhythm, is kept up to date with Hashim and Sewelson's low-end improvised saxophones. The down and dirty "Dark Blues" features Johnston, Hashim and Sewelson in some fine creative interplay, handing off to Forrester for an engaging piano solo. Dworkin has time to shine on the percussion driven "Migraine Blues," a blend of swing and jump blues. "PJ in the 60s" opens as close to free playing as the group goes but quickly returns to the concept; again, the three saxophones enter into some pleasing dialog with Forrester and Dworkin later getting some quality solo time.

The tracks on Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me are relatively compact, with one clocking in at under one minute; all having a contagious cheerfulness, modernly ostentatious and colorful textures. Like all of the compositions in the Microscopic Septet catalog, there is an unaffected and timeless quality to the music that will appeal to those who favor mainstream as well as the more exploratory listener.

Track Listing: Cat Toys; Blues Cubistico; Dark Blue; Don’t Mind If I Do; Migraine Blues (for Wendlyn Alter); PJ in the 60s; When It’s Getting Dark; Simple-Minded Blues; After You, Joel; 12 Angry Birds; Quizzical; Silent Night; I’ve Got a Right to Cry.

Personnel: Phillip Johnston: soprano saxophone; Don Davis: alto saxophone; Mike Hashim: tenor saxophone; Dave Sewelson: baritone saxophone; Joel Forrester: piano; Dave Hofstra: bass; Richard Dworkin: drums.

Title: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Northern Migrations CD/LP/Track Review
Northern Migrations
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Egregore CD/LP/Track Review
by John Eyles
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Lifelike CD/LP/Track Review
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Whatever Possessed Me CD/LP/Track Review
Whatever Possessed Me
by Don Phipps
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Live At The Fillmore East 1968 CD/LP/Track Review
Live At The Fillmore East 1968
by Doug Collette
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 21, 2018
Read "Sonic Fiction" CD/LP/Track Review Sonic Fiction
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 4, 2018
Read "Mission Cimbalom" CD/LP/Track Review Mission Cimbalom
by Geannine Reid
Published: September 7, 2017
Read "The Deep" CD/LP/Track Review The Deep
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "IL Y A" CD/LP/Track Review IL Y A
by John Eyles
Published: February 15, 2018
Read "Public Access / Headline / Crossings" CD/LP/Track Review Public Access / Headline / Crossings
by John Kelman
Published: March 25, 2018
Read "The Asylum Years" CD/LP/Track Review The Asylum Years
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018