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Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Originally active from 1980-1992 and reformed with the original personnel since 2006, the "Micros" started with a basic reeds-and-rhythm texture that was sonically similar to the sound of the Swing Era, but used influences from the entire continuum of jazz. The result was a brilliant blend of fresh-sounding orchestration, ideas, compositions and inspired soloing. Their sound is the sound of jazz in America; ALL of it, from Ellington to Ayler, bebop to Zorn, Basie to Lacy. The Microscopic Septet distill the essence of jazz into a sound that swings - a music that is intelligent, sometimes humorous, and always good fun.

For the group's sixth release, they have recorded an album of their unique arrangements of the music of the great American composer Thelonious Monk.

With gorgeous art work by New Yorker artist Barry Blitt and liner notes by long-time Micros fan Peter Keepnews, Friday the 13th is a long overdue party with the master, at which The Micros Play Monk.

Review

"...a wildly idiosyncratic, devastatingly accomplished ensemble." -- Wall Street Journal

"...the Microscopic Septet served notice that they remain one of New York's most distinctive and entertaining groups." -- All About Jazz New York

"Amidst the natty suits and serious prouncements of the 1980s jazz scene, the Microscopic Septet's arrow-through-the-head celebration of the music's history was sorely out of place-unfortunate for the financial prospects of the Micros and the joyless approach taken by too many of their peers....if the musical climate seems more hospitable these days, the somewhat grayer-haired Micros aren't about to let that get in the way of them playing the scrappy underdogs, blithely amusing themselves with a respectful tongue out at their peers.... As always with the Micros, it's gloriously, delightfully and inappropriately right. Welcome back." -- Downbeat

Very few jazz composers have experienced the extremes of acceptance and rejection that were Thelonious Monk's lot. Ignored and rejected early in his career (in part for the oblique weirdness of his piano style, in part for the difficulty and angularity of his compositions, and in part because he was quite clearly mentally ill) he did at least live to see his music given the appreciation it deserved, and his work has only grown in esteem since his death in 1982. Today, his pieces are among the most frequently performed and recorded of any jazz composer; as popularity among musicians goes, his music is on the same level as that of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. The Microscopic Septet (whom you may have heard playing the theme music to NPR's Fresh Air) has now dedicated an entire album to arrangements of Monk compositions, most of them familiar ones ("Misterioso," "Off Minor," "Epistrophy," etc.). Their arrangements are innovative but respectful: they take "Brilliant Corners" and shuffle its component parts around a little bit; they write some lovely counterpoint around the head on "Friday the 13th"; they give "Gallop's Gallop" a joyfully loose, communitarian treatment that sounds a bit like the second half of a New Orleans funeral. Part of what makes this group's take on these familiar tunes so enjoyable is their willingness to engage with Monk's sense of humor; the "difficulty" of his music is frequently puckish rather than forbidding, and too few musicians recognize that fact or capitalize on it. The group's unusual configuration (four saxophones and a piano trio) makes possible some very interesting timbral juxtapositions, and they make the most of that potential as well. Newcomers to Monk's music should let these arrangements lead them back to the original recordings on Riverside and Blue Note; longtime fans who think they've heard every possible interesting arrangement of these tunes should think again. -- Rick Anderson - All Music Guide

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Brilliant Corners
  2. Friday the 13th
  3. Gallop's Gallop
  4. Teo
  5. Pannonica
  6. Evidence
  7. We See
  8. Off Minor
  9. Bye-Ya
  10. Worry Later
  11. Misterioso
  12. Epistrophy


Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 5, 2010)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Cuneiform
  • ASIN: B003Y7U8V2
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,785 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
There are probably 100 tribute albums to Thelonius Monk out there, and the vast majority of them consist of bands who play hard-bop versions of his compositions that are slightly different from the last hard-bop version of his composition that you heard. Except for the occasional Monk specialist (like Steve Lacy), they are often good but hardly memorable.

This album really puts its own stamp on Monk's compositions. As always with the Microscopic Septet, the arrangements are hugely fun and creative. They seem very much in the spirit of Monk himself, as the two arrangers are innovative composers in their own rights. The playing is fantastic throughout. Indeed, the writing for and playing of the baritone sax is the best I have heard since the Ellington orchestra.

The album is not only musically rewarding but also a lot of fun, and anyone interested in jazz should enjoy it.
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As someone who probably has at least 30 of Monk's recordings, I never tire of also getting other artists' interpretations of his music. This is a very good one. Well put together in terms of arrangements and improvisations. Any Monk fan should get this.
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Format: MP3 Music
I first heard this band in 1981, and I said back then it was one of the greatest jazz bands ever. Thirty years later and it is still one of the greatest bands ever!
I heard a song from this album on the radio today -- thank you WREK! -- and had to buy this album.
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Format: Audio CD
With fabulous arrangements, hot solos and their customary humor, the Micros bring it all together to honor one of their key influences, lo these many years later. A great record, highly recommended.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Alexander von SCHLIPPENBACH. Monk's Casino: The Complete Works of Thelonious Monk. Intakt Records. 2005. 3 CDs. AvS, p; Axel Dormer, tpt; Rudi Mahall, bss clari; Jan Roder, b; Uli Jenneson, dr

Steve LACY. Reflections (1958). The Straight Horn of SL (1960). Evidence (1961). Epistrophy (1969). Eronel (1979). Only Monk (1987). Five Facings (1995). Monk's Dream (1999). Materioso (Monk's Moods) (2003). With Mal WALDRON. Let's Call This (1986). I Remember Thelonious (1992). Let's Call This... Esteem (1993) With VAR. ARTISTS: Interpretations of Monk (1981)

Fred HERSCH. Thelonious: Fred Hersch Plays Monk. Nonesuch. 1997. FH, p.

Bill HOLMAN. Brilliant Corners. JVC. 1997. BH, arr; soloists incl. Bill Perkins, alto sx; Bob Efford, bss clari; Ron Stout, Bob Summer,s tpt; Pete Christlieb, ten sx.

Don PULLEN: Don Pullen Plays Monk. Why Not. 2010, orig. rec. 1984. DP, p.

MICROSCOPIC SEPTET. Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk. Cuneiform Records. 2010. Phillip Johnston, sop sx; Don Davis, alto sx; Mike Hashim, ten sx; Dave Sewelson, bari sx; Joel Forester, p; David Hofstra, b; Richard Dworkin, dr. 11 of the 12 songs on this CD were arranged by either Johnston or Forrester.

In the pantheon of American popular music composers, two jazz composers stand high, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington and Thelonious Sphere Monk. (Charles Mingus hovers not too far behind them, and behind him stand James P. Johnson and Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller.)

Both the Duke and Thelonious were pianists of considerable talent and originality. Duke hid his light most of the time so that a long while, critics thought that he played "arranger's piano." Late recordings of Ellington on [piano dispelled that myth. Monk too suffered from misunderstanding.
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