Monday, March 13, 2017

The Microscopic Septet - Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues (Cuneiform, 2017)

The Microscopic Septet were one of the leading progressive bands in New York City during the mid to late 1980's, and then went their separate ways as performing opportunities began to dry up. Thankfully they returned to the fray in the late 2000's first with some fine reissues of their earlier work, and then a series of exciting original LP's for the Cuneiform label. The band consists of Phillip Johnston on soprano saxophone, Don Davis on alto saxophone, Mike Hashim, tenor saxophone, Dave Sewelson on baritone saxophone and vocals, Joel Forrester on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass and Richard Dworkin on drums. They play the blues in a jaunty and addictive fashion, opening with "Cat Toys" which is appropriately named, given the madcap nature of the music as the saxophonists chase the rhythm section like a wound up feline. "Blues Cubistico" adds some extra angles to the music, but sticks with the warmly swinging feel of their sound with some fine riffing and an extra dosage of baritone saxophone soloing. There is some sweet soprano saxophone melody to the nimble "Don't Mind If I Do" before the rest of the band crashes in to bump the music to a higher level with percussive piano supporting Sewelson on another excellent solo flight. Some storming riffs open "When It's Getting Dark" pushing the music forward in a strutting and memorable manner. All of the musicians  support one another admirably in solo and full band improvisations that are taut and powerful. "After You, Joel" sets up Forrester for some much deserved attention, and his playing is tasteful and thoughtful, making the most of a short solo spot with some pithy improvising. They turn the traditional "Silent Night" into a smoky ballad and take the music out in style on "I've Got a Right to Cry" which mines the Kansas City blues of the territory band years, even adding a gravely vocal turn for Sweleson. The format of the blues suits the band very well, allowing them to set their little big band riffs in their natural habitat, and then adding unique solos and improvisations that keep the music continuously interesting throughout the length of the whole album. Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues -

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