The Microscopic Septet performs at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City - Will's New York Nite Life

The Microscopic Septet at Smalls Jazz Club in NYC

The Microscopic Septet at Smalls Jazz Club in NYC

The Microscopic Septet at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City

183 West 10th Street, (212) 252-5091

Sunday, April 2

The Microscopic Septet was one of the great jazz bands of the 1980s, creating exciting and swinging yet wildly eclectic music for an era of jazz that was just beginning to discover the joys of eclecticism. The four saxophonists (plus piano, bass, and drums) had stopped working together by the end of the 20th century, and a reunion seemed unlikely after co-leader Philip Johnston moved to Australia in 2005. Yet over the last decade, the Micros have regularly re-united with a vengeance, and their four albums from the last eight years have been some of their most rewarding.

The latest, the brand new Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me, which the band is launching this Sunday April 2 at Small’s, finds the group reveling in the ur-materials of jazz, as indicated in the subtitle “The Micros Play The Blues.” “Dark Blue,” for instance, puts one in mind of Duke Ellington at his most atavistic, as in the mid-sized group session released under the leadership of Johnny Hodges. Yet there are occasional, knowing nods to the postmodern tradition as well – delivered straightforwardly, without any kind of ironic nudge-nudge, wink-wink. The band’s understated sense of humor is also apparent throughout, especially in song titles like “Twelve Angry Birds.”

The disc ends with a more or less direct recreation of “Got a Right to Cry,” the 1945 blockbuster rhythm-and-blues hit by Joe Liggins, which works amazingly well in the Micros saxophones-and-rhythm format and vocal by baritone saxist Dave Sewelson. Sometimes the straight up blues is all you need.

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Author: Will Friedwald
Photography by: STEPHEN SOROKOFF

Author: Will Friedwald

Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL & VANITY FAIR, and reviews current shows for THE OBSERVER and THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of eight books including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.

New Books:

THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP VOCAL ALBUMS (Pantheon Books / Random House, October 2017)

SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)