Monday, May 15, 2017

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

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

Despite the solemnity some may view jazz, the music is serious fun and among those display this is the New York based The Microscopic Septet. Having recently done an album of Thelonious Monk compositions, they now turn their attention to the blues, one of the foundational components of jazz itself. This recording is comprised of 12 originals by either Phillip Johnston or Joel Forrester, along with a cover of Joe Liggins' "I Got a Right to Cry," and played with the blend of imagination, inventiveness and quirky humor that the Micros have been know for. The Micros are comprised of Phillip Johnston – soprano saxophone; Don Davis – alto saxophone; Mike Hashim – tenor saxophone; Dave Sewelson – baritone saxophone; Joel Forrester – piano; Dave Hofstra – bass and Richard Dworkin – drums.

Blues is one of the foundations of jazz and here the Micros take the twelve originals blues compositions as a springboard starting with the playfulness of the opening "Cat Toys," with Hashim, Hofstra and composer Forrester soling (the latter set against the central riff). Sewelson's barreling baritone sax takes center stage on "Blues Cubistico," another Forrester original with an unusual twist in the melody. Johnston's "Dark Blue" has a 'three in the morning' feel that opens with some nice piano before robust tenor and baritone sax solos. The scoring of the sax ensembles here, with the call and response with the sax solos, is wonderful.

Blues comes in all shapes, tempos and moods and the compositions vary from the frolicsome quality of "Don't Mind If I Do," the rambunctiousness of "PJ in the 60s," the rush-hour traffic feel of "When it's Getting Dark," the languid tenor of "12 Angry Birds" (excellent Davis' alto sax) or "Silent Night", Forrester's Monkish reworking of a Christmas classic into a blues (featuring Johnston, Sewelson and Forrester). A bouncy, delightful cover of the Liggins' R&B classic (with Sewelson taking the raspy vocal) closes this fascinating and fresh take on the blues. I note that I am among those who donated on kickstarter to help this recording happen.

Here are the Microscopic Septet performing "Migraine Blues."

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