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The Microscopic Septet - Friday the 13th (Cuneiform, 2010)

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The Microscopic Septet were a popular band on the downtown New York jazz scene in the 1980's and early 90's before going an extended hiatus. After Cuneiform Records put out some very nice re-issues of their earlier LP's in 2006, the group reunited and cut a comeback album called Lobster Leaps In, and now issue their second post comeback album, a collection of songs by the great composer and pianist Thelonious Monk. The group consists of Phillip Johnston on soprano saxophone, Don Davis on alto saxophone, Mike Hashim on tenor saxophone, Dave Sewelson on baritone saxophone, Joel Forrester on piano, Richard Dworkin on drums and David Hofstra on bass. Melody is the key to the group's interpretation of the Monk repertoire, they arrange the songs beautifully and take great joy in playing them. Bravely, they open with what is considered to be Monk's most difficult composition, “Brilliant Corners," with the piano and horns swinging the melody as the saxophones trade ideas and flutter. “Teo" swings hard with strong and wild saxophone surging to the front in a muscular fashion, aided and abetted by propulsive drumming. Forrester's piano ushers in a gentle swing feel for “We See" developing into a fractured and fun swing feel for the whole band. A joyous alto saxophone solo and some thick deep bass make this one of the highlights of the session. “Off Minor" has a wonderfully infectious set up of the melody, then punchy sax builds against its fellow horns and agile drumming. Hofstra's insistent bass opens “Worry Later" building to a section of nimble horns and piano before reverting to the bass for a subtle and nimble solo. “Misterioso" is a fascinating performance, beginning with an ascending melody on the piano and developing into a choppy feel from the horns, the music shifts abruptly to lush horns and tinkling piano. Hashim develops a deep and dark tenor saxophone over subtle bass and drum accompaniment. This album works quite well, the arrangements that the band has developed keep the uniqueness of Monk's vision while allowing for ample opportunities for the soloists to interpret the music with fine solos and ensemble passages. Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk—amazon.com

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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