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Surrealistic Swing

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Album Review

The Microscopic Septet created music that wasn't easily labeled in any one particular style. Although their music swings, it has a novelty sound and doesn't hesitate to briefly delve into avant-garde jazz, Latin music or whatever whimsical notion comes to the mind of the band's composers and soloists. This two-CD compilation is the second part of a complete series of the group's recordings, with liner notes by co-founder and soprano saxophonist Phillip Johnston. With Johnston and pianist Joel Forrester writing most of the music and arrangements, the sound has remained fresh, long after the septet finally disbanded after their final session in 1990. Some of the highlights include Johnston's energetic "Baghdad Blues" (which is played as a salsa at one point!), Forrester's "March of the Video Reptiles" (which suggests the influence of Raymond Scott), the funky, somewhat twisted "I Am the Police," the loopy miniature "Off Color," the hilarious klezmer-like "March of the Recently Punished Catholic Boys" and finally, "The Dream Detective," where baritone saxophonist David Sewelson is featured extensively and even manages to work in the theme from the television series Get Smart! An added bonus are two versions of the theme used by NPR's Fresh Air; one a sorrowful collage used during the First Gulf War and the latter which has been utilized on the program since the war's end. It's apparent that a first-rate reed section was required to tackle these demanding charts and each lineup of the Microscopic Septet manages to swing the heck out of the zany compositions of Phillip Johnston and Joel Forrester.


Formed: 1980

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The Microscopic Septet were one of the most distinctive jazz ensembles in New York during the '80s and early '90s. Combining a love for the big-band sound with a progressive approach to arrangement and composition, the Micros managed to be nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. Founded by N.Y.U. dropout and soprano saxophonist Philip Johnston, the group that came to be known as New York's most famous unknown band featured pianist Joel Forrester, tenor saxophonist Paul Shapiro, baritone saxophonist...
Full Bio
Surrealistic Swing, The Microscopic Septet
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  • $13.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Oct 10, 2006

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