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Sometimes being years ahead of your time is not a good thing. Take the Microscopic Septet, formed in 1980, a dour time in jazz history. They were the critics' favoritesthat and fifty cents (Starbucks wasn't ubiquitous back then) would get you a cup of coffee. It just wasn't their time.
The group's twelve-year run ended in 1992, and its catalog was reissued in 2006 on two double CDs by Cuneiform RecordsHistory Of The Micros, Vol. 1Seven Men In Neckties and History Of The Micros, Vol. 2Surrealistic Swing. The band reformed to promote the reissue and decided to record some of the 180 tunes from its songbook.
What its members might have realized, is that the serious young men playing jazz from the 1980s and '90s have today dropped the Stanley Crouch facades: there is a move to make jazz fun again. Serious fun. Examples today include Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, Kamikaze Ground Crew, Jim Connolly's Gove County Philharmonic, ICP Orchestra, and Either/Orchestra. The Micros might have done it first, and it's not too late to do it again.
Lester Young won't mind the Lobster Leaps In title of this album, recorded in 2007. The disc opens with Wayne Horvitz's "Night Train Express," a bar-walking R&B thriller that sets the mood straight off. From there the band sticks to music penned by saxophonist Phillip Johnston and pianist Joel Forrester. "Got Lucky" hails from Havana and is something the Buena Vista folks might cover some day. Highlights include the cartoon stylings of "Twilight Time Zone" and the incessantly crazed "Money Money Money," fat with a tortured saxophone solo by baritone Dave Sewelsson. It morphs into the sweetest of songs, while "Almost Right" is left to be the tightest track on the record, displaying the Micro's superb musicianship and constant swing.
Those with a taste for R&B, swing, avant and bop, who don't mind mixing a tango with a polka at times, will gladly welcome back the Microscopic Septet.
Track Listing: Night Train Express; Disconcerto For Donnie; Lobster Leaps In; Got Lucky; Lies; Life's Other Mystery; Almost Right; Money, Money, Money; Lt. Cassawary; Twilight Time Zone; The Big Squeeze.
Personnel: Phillip Johnston: soprano saxophone; Don Davis: alto saxophone; Mike Hashim: tenor saxophone; Dave Sewelson: baritone saxophone; Joel Forrester: piano; David Hofstra: bass; Richard Dworkin: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me. Try as I might, I was never able to achieve a high enough level of competency to perform at the level I was first and subsequently exposed to. Regardless, I was hooked on jazz and remain so to this day.