Bio information: THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET
Title: LOBSTER LEAPS IN (Cuneiform Rune 272) Cuneiform promotion dept: (301) 589-8894 / fax (301) 589-1819
email: joyce [-at-] cuneiformrecords.com (Press & world radio); radio [-at-] cuneiformrecords.com (North American radio)
http://www.cuneiformrecords.com FILE UNDER: JAZZ ―Oh, how we’ve missed the Microscopic Septet! Back in the early 1980s, when jazz, on all aesthetic levels, seemed to be resolidifying its
connection with its heritage, these wild and wooly virtuosos leapt into the breach between ―outside‖ and ―inside‖ jazz and made a cheerful shambles. They were as clever as the Beatles, as subversive as Captain Beefheart, as antic as Spike Jones. Did I mention that they were – and are – more fun than any other well-dressed jazz ensemble in the western world? …fans still light candles for their return. …Hurry back, fellows, won’t you? The uptown neoclassicists still have a lot to learn from you downtown pranksters.‖
– Gene Seymour, Newsday: The Long Island Newspaper, June 13, 2000 ―The bottom line is this: time has been kind to this antic gang of jazzifying tooters. The band is even better and more musically serious than
I remember. It is as if the times finally caught up to the Micros, with heaping doses of jazz musicians finally realizing what this septet knew
as far back as Reagan’s inaugural—that jazz lives most fully when it’s celebrating and having fun, dicing and razor-slicing American
musical history with aplomb... …these guys were important, plus they might all don a fez and march through the audience while playing.‖
– Will Layman, PopMatters, Jan. 12, 2007 The Microscopic Septet is most widely known for its theme song to NPR‟s popular interview show “Fresh Air with Terry Gross;” the
catchy, film-noir tune is broadcast daily on stations across America since 1990, and may well be “the most-aired jazz work in the world.”
[Audiophile Audition]. During the group‟s initial lifetime from 1980-1992, the “Micros” remained an in-house secret among the New York
City jazz world, who embraced them 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. DownBeat noted that “…these guys should be more famous than they are. Their music is well-written, their playing cooks, and everything they do is accessible…” The music of The
Microscopic Septet was the sound of jazz in 20th century America: all of it, from Ellington to Ayler, bebop to Zorn, Dixieland to experimental, captured in a microcosm. It distilled the essence of jazz as a popular music into a sound that swung, a music that was intelligent,
sometimes smart-aleck, and always good fun. In 2006, Cuneiform released a major Microscopic Septet retrospective, as two double-CD sets: History of the Micros, Vol. 1 – Seven Men in
Neckties, and History of the Micros, Vol. 2 – Surrealistic Swing. Featuring covers designed by comic artist Art Spiegelman (author of Maus),
the retrospective contained the sole four albums that the Micros recorded in their lifetime, several previously unrecorded tunes, and extensive
liner notes written by Johnston and augmented by photos and artwork. Celebrating these releases – which received an avalanche of critical and popular praise – the Micros reunited to play several shows in the Northeast US. They had such a good time playing together that they decided
to make the Micros an 'occasional regular thing'. Founder and co-leader Phillip Johnston desired to do a new recording; stating that “since we broke up with 180 mostly original tunes in our repertoire, I mourn the many great tunes that never got recorded.” Co-leader Joel Forrester
stated that: “Going there in public didn‟t call to me. But then we had this rehearsal, and I realized that the music this band plays is singular. I
can‟t make it with any other people.” In 2007, the Micros did a well-received, two week tour of Europe before returning to New York to record their first release in 20 years, Lobster Leaps In, released on Cuneiform. The Microscopic Septet was founded in 1980 on NYC‟s Lower East Side by Phillip Johnston, a composer, soprano saxophonist, and improviser who was then playing in two groups led by composer and pianist Joel Forrester. Largely self-trained as a musician, Johnston‟s own music was influenced by a pantheon of jazz and avant-rock greats that included Steve Lacy, Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, Captain
Beefheart, and more, as well as by popular music in myriad forms. Desiring to create a saxophone-quartet-plus-rhythm-section jazz band,
Johnston recruited musicians from his various projects and brought on Forrester to be the new group‟s co-leader, sharing half of the composing responsibilities. The team-up of Johnston and Forrester as the Micros‟ composers proved to be magic; their compositions became the band‟s stars. Called “the
boldest and most gifted pair of composers to have joined forces in one group since Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman of the Art Ensemble
of Chicago” [Philadelphia Inquirer], the two had known each other since the early „70s, and shared the same musical aesthetics, humor, and
similarly skewed world views. Humor would play a role in the Septet, emerging in Johnston‟s and Forrester‟s compositions and in their onstage
banter. The Micros proved that technically sophisticated music could also be funny, and fun. Johnston and Forrester were prolific composers; by the time the Micros disbanded, in 1992, it had a songbook of over 180 tunes. Only 34 of
those were recorded and released in the band‟s lifetime. This new recording, Lobster Leaps In, features 11 previously unrecorded Micros‟ tunes that delighted audiences during the band‟s initial dozen year reign on NYC‟s club stages.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET, SEE:
―…jazz went thru a period of being an entertaining, popular music as it was in the 20s, 30s and 40s, to bop and to
eventually being this serious cult music. Jazz for us is more than that – it is music we love and want to have fun with, which
should not take away from our real reverence for the music.― – Phillip Johnston, The Microscopic Septet, founder and co-
MICROSCOPIC SEPTET BAND MEMBER BIOS:
PHILLIP JOHNSTON (soprano saxophone, compositions) [www.phillipjohnston.com - www.myspace.com/phillipjohnston88]
Phillip Johnston has written music for films, including Henry Bean’s Noise, Paul Mazursky's Faithful, Philip Haas' The Music of Chance, and Money Man, Doris Dörrie’s Paradise & Geld and Henry Corra’s Umbrellas. He has also written for silent film including Tod Browning's The Unknown, The Georges Méliès Project, Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Page Of Madness, and F.W. Murnau’s Faust, which premiered at the New York Film Festival in 2002 and has subsequently toured worldwide. His theatre composition credits include Young Goodman Brown with Richard Foreman, Venus with Suzan-Lori Parks, Measure For Measure, Comedy of Errors and Wars of The Roses for the Bell Shakespeare Company, Drawn To Death: A Three-Panel Opera with Art Spiegelman. Dance credits include Karole Armitage's The Predators' Ball and Keely Garfield’s Minor Repairs Necessary for which he won a “Bessie” in 1999. During the 1980's, Johnston performed with The Microscopic Septet, and in the '90's, Big Trouble & The Transparent Quartet. Among his recordings are Tales From The Cryptic with Guy Klucevsek, Rub Me The Wrong Way (Innova), & Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind (Cuneiform) with Fast ‘N’ Bulbous: the music of Captain Beefheart, which he co-leads with Gary Lucas.
JOEL FORRESTER (piano, compositions) [www.joelforrester.com]
Joel Forrester has authored nearly 1500 musical works. These include the 8-hour piano solo "Industrial Arts", the off-Broadway show Fascist Living, and the theme to National Public Radio's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross". As a young man, he composed music for the early films of Andy Warhol. He studied composition with and received the personal encouragement of Thelonious Monk. Currently, he maintains a quintet in NYC (Joel Forrester and The Truth) and a quartet in Paris (featuring Steve Potts). His former band PEOPLE LIKE US has a recent release on the Ride Cymbal label, entitled Ever Wonder Why. Forrester is an acclaimed improvising accompanist to silent film
("Simply stated, the best in the world!"---Paris Free Voice) with regular performances at the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, and the Forum des
Images. Over the last four months, he's done concerts with film at the University of Chicago, the town hall at Thonon-les-Bains on Lake Geneva, and the Stuart Opera House in Nelsonville, OH.
DON DAVIS (alto saxophone)
Has performed and/or recorded with The Waitresses, Toots and the Maytals, LL Cool J, Swollen Monkeys, NY Gong, Material, Carla Bley, Karl Berger, Marc Black, Michael Mantler, Dr. Nerve, Danzig, Peter Apfelbaum, Rusted Root, Rooster, Larry Simon and Groove Bacteria. Currently teaching in New Hampshire and performs with "Davis and Deleault", Poet F D Reeve, the New Hampshire Jazz Orchestra, and the Don Davis trio among others.
MIKE HASHIM (tenor saxophone)
Has performed with Cab Calloway, Doc Cheatham, Muddy Waters, Nancy Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, Jo Jones, Sonny Greer, Roy Eldridge, Skitch Henderson and the NY Pops, Ruby Braff, Madeline Kahn, Bob Wilber, Joe Williams, Panama Francis, Gatemouth Brown, Sammy Price, The Duke Ellington Band and Benny Carter. His own recordings feature, among others, Jimmy Rowles, Claudio
Roditi, Mike LeDonne and Kenny Washington, and include special projects devoted to the works of Fats Waller, Billy Strayhorn & Kurt Weill. He currently leads the 15-piece Billy Strayhorn Orchestra, performs in duo with Judy Carmichael, and tours the world regularly both as a leader and as a sideman. As such he has performed in the US, Europe, Asia and South America. His most recent record as a leader is Green-Up Time, featuring the Axis String Quartet, on Hep Records.
DAVE SEWELSON (baritone saxophone) [www.sewelsonics.com - www.myspace.com/davesewelson] Sewelson has played and/or recorded with the 25 O'Clock Band, Jemeel Moondoc's Jus Grew Orchestra, Noise R Us, Mofungo, Freedomland, The Fazely Brothers, The President, Konk and Illuminati. He was a founding member of the Microscopic Septet and
played with Wayne Horvitz, Bill Horvitz, Robin Holcomb, Saheb Sarbib, John Zorn, Roy Campbell, Elliot Sharp, Dee Pop, Frank Lowe, Pat Place, Billy Bang, Walter Perkins, Bobby Radcliff, Clayton Thomas, Kyosuke Otsuka, Norah Jones, and so many more. Sewelson is currently involved in several projects, among them William Parker's Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra and Fast 'N' Bulbous. He leads The Daves, Sewelsonics, and is a member of Two Sisters Inc (two baris, one mind...and a bass
DAVE HOFSTRA (bass/tuba)
Has played, toured, and recorded extensively in jazz, rock, blues, klezmer, and New Music. He has performed with Marc Ribot, Marshall Crenshaw, Bobby Previte, Lou Grassi, Bobby Radcliff, Grady Gaines, John Zorn, Wayne Horvitz, Robin Holcomb, Debbie Davies, Elliot Sharp, David Rosenbloom, Tom Cora, Guy Klucevsek, Bill Frisell, Toshi Reagon, Jaki Byard, Joel Forrester, William Parker, Nora York, Luka Bloom; with Philip Johnston's Big Trouble, Microscopic Septet, and Transparent Quartet; Rachelle Garniez's Fortunate Few & Twilight Time; Casselberry & DuPree; The Contortions; The Raybeats; The Waitresses; The Metropolitan Klezmer Orchestra, and The Klezmatics.
RICHARD DWORKIN (drums)
Currently performs and records with Alex Chilton & Fast ‘N’ Bulbous. He has played with Richard Hell, James White, Bobby Radcliff, Billy Bang, Wayne Kramer (MC5), John Zorn, Edwin Hawkins, Carol Doda, Bill T. Jones, and the ROVA Saxophone Quartet.