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Microscopic Septet

The music of The Microscopic Septet was the sound of jazz in 20th C. America: all of it, from Ellington to Ayler, bebop to Zorn, Dixieland to experimental, captured in a microcosm. It distilled the essence of jazz as a popular music into a sound that swung, a music that was intelligent, sometimes smart-aleck, and always good clean fun. Optimistic and upbeat, full of innocent confidence, the Microscopic Septet captured not only the sound of jazz, but also the sound - or soundtrack - of 20th Century America. No wonder, then, that when National Public Radio (NPR) needed a new theme song for one of its most popular shows, "Fresh Air, with Terry Gross", broadcast to every home in America, it asked this band to compose the tune and has used it ever since. Active from 1980-1992, The Microscopic Septet was part of New York's emerging Downtown Music Scene, a diverse group of artists on the fringes of jazz, rock, and improv that would converge in the Knitting Factory when the club opened in 1987

Sex & Drugs & Jazz & Jive: Top Ten Stash Records Albums

Read "Sex & Drugs & Jazz & Jive: Top Ten Stash Records Albums" reviewed by Chris May

With all the transgressive flair you would expect of bohemian New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, Bernie Brightman's Stash Records made its name with a hugely entertaining series of sex and drugs-themed compilations of swing-era recordings. The first was Reefer Songs in 1976. But Brightman's legacy extends much further. There was a finite amount ...

ARTICLE: RADIO

John Zorn and The Downtown Scene (1983 - 1995)

Read "John Zorn and The Downtown Scene (1983 - 1995)" reviewed by Russell Perry

Never far from the pulse of jazz innovation, New York in the 1980s incubated what has become known as the “downtown scene." Radically multi-stylistic, the resulting music was unabashedly eclectic, celebrating influences from bebop to punk rock to cartoon music and eventually klezmer and Balkan music “From the shrill, colorful legacy of noise music and new ...

Composer Tributes: Strayhorn, Shorter, Monk and Sam Jones

Read "Composer Tributes: Strayhorn, Shorter, Monk and Sam Jones" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

There always seem to be albums coming out that pay tribute to accomplished jazz composers. Here are some newer ones, three on very familiar names and one on an often overlooked musician. John Di Martino Passion Flower: The Music of Billy Strayhorn Sunnyside Records 2020 Pianist John ...

ARTICLE: GENERAL ARTICLES

Le Nuove Avventure di Phillip Johnston

Read "Le Nuove Avventure di Phillip Johnston" reviewed by Vic Albani

Il sessantaquattrenne signor Phillip Johnston è un avanguardista autentico da tempi non sospetti. Famoso ai più per essere stato uno dei fondatori di quella straordinaria fucina creativa che risponde al nome di Microscopic Septet dove passano o sono passati Joel Forrester, ma anche di John Zorn, Don Davis, Richard Dworkin, David Hofstra, Dave Sewelson, George Bishop, ...

ARTICLE: MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Phillip Johnston Returns with Diggin' Bones and The Adventures of Prince Achmed

Read "Phillip Johnston Returns with Diggin' Bones and The Adventures of Prince Achmed" reviewed by John Kelman

The consequences of change in the music industry have been predicted for some time now but, with far too many blinkered deniers, it's had to begin approaching critical mass before being recognized for what it is: the commoditization and devaluation of music that has led to increasing challenges for musicians looking to maintain any kind of ...

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

Label: Cuneiform Records
Released: 2017
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.

ARTICLE: MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me, Jazz Passengers: Still Life with Troube, Papanosh: Chicken in a Bottle

Read "Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me, Jazz Passengers: Still Life with Troube, Papanosh: Chicken in a Bottle" reviewed by Vic Albani

Non credo che i puristi del caso si possano stupire di una recensione tripla che non vuole porre in contrapposizione tre lavori discografici afferenti ad una similare idea di base, bensì presentarli entro un unico pacchetto di “meraviglie contemporanee." Anche perché questi tre dischi potrebbero essere certamente acquistati ad occhi bendati quale brillante testimonianza di alcune ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEW

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

Read "Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues" reviewed by Troy Dostert

Since its inception, the Microscopic Septet has endeavored to uphold co-founder Phillip Johnston's motto to “break all the rules and respect all the saints." Coming out of New York's internecine jazz wars of the early 1980s, with avant-gardists and traditionalists each denying the other side's legitimacy, the Micros tried to bridge the divide: showing that respect ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEW

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

Read "Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

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, ...


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