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Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk
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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.
"...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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
I heard a song from this album on the radio today -- thank you WREK! -- and had to buy this album.
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.Read more ›