The Microscopic Septet is one of the most imaginative jazz groups it’s ever been my privilege to encounter. The last time that happened five years ago, since co-leaders Joel Forrester and Phillip Johnston live far apart, but they are reuniting in New York for four sets, two nights, in July 2022.
The Septet is Joel Forrester, piano, compositions, arrangements; Michael Hashim, tenor saxophone; Don Davis, alto saxophone; Phillip Johnston, soprano saxophone, compositions, arrangements Dave Sewelson, baritone saxophone; Dave Hofstra, string bass; Richard Dworkin, drums. If I tried to describe what they did, it would be inaccurate because narrow: let’s just say they lovingly take the past and send it Priority Mail into the future, with surprises thrown in free of charge.
Here’s a taste of what they did (and I captured) in 2017.
WHEN YOU GET IN OVER YOUR HEAD (you’ll forget the noisy audience immediately):
Phillip’s LET’S COOLERATE ONE:
HANG IT ON A LINE:
And here’s Phillip’s commentary on the return / reunion:
Active for a dozen years, the Microscopic Septet were widely recognized as “New York’s Most Famous Unknown Band.” The group started with a basic reeds-and-rhythm texture (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone sax, piano, bass and drums) that was sonically similar to the sound of the Swing Era. However, they employed these textures to address a widely eclectic range of styles, from free-form music to R&B, rhumbas and ragtime. The result was a brilliant blend of fresh-sounding orchestration and inspired soloing. Beloved in New York, where they generally drew capacity crowds, “The Micros” were one of the most celebrated of the many cutting-edge units associated with experimental music’s best-known venue, the Knitting Factory, during the peak years of the “Downtown” music movement in the mid 1980s onward. Beginning in 2006, the Micros came back together again, sparked by a re-release of their 1980s LPs on a series of CDs on Cuneiform, eventually releasing a series of highly regarded CD, also on Cuneiform, featuring both new and earlier, unrecorded Micros music. Beginning with Lobster Leaps In and followed by Friday The 13th: The Micros Play Monk, Manhattan Moonrise and Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues, the Micros began playing once or twice a year in New York, despite the fact that the two band-leaders, Phillip Johnston lives in Sydney, Australia, and Joel Forrester in Lyons, France, until the pandemic made travel impossible. . . . until now.
In July 2022, for the first time since the 2017 concert ‘Forever Weird’ at The Kitchen (with generational fellow travelers Jazz Passengers & Kamikaze Ground Crew), the Micros are gathering in New York to play two gigs, at Jazz Forum and Smalls Jazz Club.
“The Micros skip merrily through the century, finding an avant-garde side street branching off from a trad-jazz Main Street…. As always with the Micros, it’s gloriously, delightfully and inappropriately right. Welcome back.” – DOWN BEAT
And the gig details. Sunday, July 17, 2022, The Jazz Forum, Tarrytown, New York, two shows, 4 and 6 PM. Tickets: https://jazzforumarts.org/.
Thursday, July 21, 2022, Smalls Jazz Club, New York, New York, two shows, 7:30 and 9 PM. Tickets: https://www.smallslive.com/events/24212-microscopic-septet/
Don’t miss them. Who knows what the future brings, for them or us?
May your happiness increase!