Background: In 2006 Cuneiform Records released two 2-CD sets of the music of The Microscopic Septet, Seven Men In Neckties and Surrealistic Swing, which included all of the Micros LPs from the 1980s, as well as additional unreleased recordings (such as the full-band arrangements of the theme from “NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross”, composed by Joel Forrester). In order to celebrate that release, the Micros came back together and played a few release party gigs. Those gigs were so well received, and we enjoyed playing together again so much, that we decided to keep the band reanimated.
This was complicated the fact that I, Phillip Johnston, have lived in Sydney, Australia since 2005. However, since that time I have returned to New York once or twice a year and The Microscopic Septet has performed, toured, and/or recorded. In 2008 we released Lobster Leaps In, our first new recording since 1988’s LP Beauty Based On Science (The Visit) on Stash Records, which consisted of tunes by Joel Forrester and myself from back in the day which had never been recorded by the Micros. There’s plenty of pretty darned good stuff from that back catalogue for some more records, but who knows if that will ever happen. In the meantime, we have another idea.
Foreground: Joel and I have been playing the music of Thelonious Monk since we first got together in the mid-70s. We were both profoundly influenced by Monk’s music, as well as his eccentricity, humor and irreverence. Even before the Microscopic Septet, when I played in various small and large groups of Joel’s, we always played some Monk along with whatever else we were doing. When the Micros began, we also played Monk, in addition to Joel’s and my tunes (and those of Bob Montalto), though we never recorded them (with the exception of Joel’s arrangement of “Crepuscule With Nellie” on Off Beat Glory, later re-released on Surrealistic Swing).
We have decided to write new arrangements of music by Thelonious Monk in the Microscopic idiom. These, along with a few of our older Monk arrangements, will make up the music on Friday The 13th: The Micros Play Monk. Monk’s music is so wide, so deep and so nuggety that it can withstand any amount of abuse, even being performed by The Microscopic Septet.
However, due to the changes in the recording business that have happened over the last few years, and the not inconsiderable difficulties caused by my living in Sydney, we need to reach out to you for help. We now need to raise the money for the production of the recording ourselves. We are booked into a wonderful recording studio in May 2010, with a terrific engineer, the music is all written, and it is scheduled to be released on Cuneiform Records in September 2010. We just need to figure out how to pay for it.
When I was in New York in December 2009, we worked on the music, and even took it out and played it on our gigs, even though we were just learning it. There are a few wrong notes and a bit of sloppy playing, but this will give you some idea of what we’re up to. We’ll have it together by the time we go into the studio, we promise.
We thank you in advance for any help you can give, and take a gander at the cool "Backer Rewards" we offer, a must for the Micros Tragic.
Here are some samples of works in progress of the material we intend to record:
The Micros play Phillip Johnston’s arrangement of We See t the 92nd Street Y: http://www.microscopicseptet.com/audio/we.see.92y.mp3
The Micros play Joel Forrester’s arrangement of Epistrophy at Barbes:
The Micros play Phillip Johnston’s arrangement of Friday The 13th at Barbes:
Here's some other background information of interest:
Joel Forrester talks about his relationship with Thelonious Monk, including the time he spent visiting him at the home of Baroness Nica von Koenigswarter:
Joel Forrester talks about how he met the Baroness and their relationship, and more about Monk:
Joel Forrester talks about how he met Phillip Johnston:
Videos of The Microscopic Septet performing over the years can be found by searching on youTube for The Microscopic Septet or following the links on the MySpace page.
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