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Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

by The Microscopic Septet

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Cat Toys 04:33
Dark Blue 06:34
Quizzical 05:51
Silent Night 06:21


It takes an unusual band to make news out of the blues, and The Microscopic Septet deliver a gripping investigation of the form on Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues, which continues the band’s brilliant resurgence.

Since storming back into action in 2006 after a 14-year hiatus, the radically old-school combo has continued to evolve and extend its reputation. The new album builds on the band’s longstanding love of that most basic and profound musical form, bringing the same reverently irreverent and insistently playful approach to the blues that has marked the Micros music from the beginning. The blues provide another avenue for the band to explore jazz history while forging a sound quite unlike any other ensemble.

Simultaneously embracing the past and the future makes perfect sense when you consider the fraught time and place that gave birth to the Microscopic Septet. In the early 1980s the New York jazz scene was divided, sometimes bitterly, between the emergence of the ‘new traditionalists’ as typified by Wynton Marsalis and the experimentation and stylistic mash-ups of the emerging downtown players. Rejecting allegiance to any particular camp or faction, the Micros forged their own path with an ethos succinctly summed up by co-leader Phillip Johnston: “Break all the rules and respect all the saints.”

Embracing jazz’s populist legacy, the Micros brought Uptown jazz back Downtown, where they made a compelling case that swing could look forward as well as backward. The band adopted a name that playfully alluded to its orchestral palette. As Johnston explained at the time, “The instrumentation is enough to give us a big range of colors and work compositionally in an expansive way.”

The band is built upon the felicitous partnership of Johnston and Joel Forrester, who met in the early 70s and bonded over shared musical aesthetics, humor, and similarly skewed worldviews. Eager to break away from the jazz straightjacket of head-solo-head formats, they honed extended, lapidary jazz compositions that segued gracefully between different themes in a single piece, hearkening forward to forms employed by Sun Ra, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton. The music drew on the entire history of jazz, as well as polkas, tangos, antic cartoon themes, klezmer, and new wave rock. No matter how eclectic their influences, the Micros always hewed to the band’s prime directive. “It’s gotta swing, whether its Latin or R&B or straight-ahead blowing,” Johnston says. “That’s the foundation of what we do.”


released February 10, 2017

The Microscopic Septet:
Phillip Johnston – soprano saxophone
Don Davis – alto saxophone
Mike Hashim – tenor saxophone
Dave Sewelson – baritone saxophone
Joel Forrester – piano
Dave Hofstra – bass
Richard Dworkin – drums

Tracks 1, 2, 4, 7, 10, 11 by Phillip Johnston © Jedible Music (BMI).
Tracks 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, by Joel Forrester © Way Real Music (BMI).
Track 13 by Joe Liggins © Nanohits Inc (BMI).

Recorded May 24–25, 2016 at Tedesco Studios.
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Jon Rosenberg.
Assistant engineer: Tom Tedesco
Cover Art: Kaz
Photography: Greg Cristman
Graphic Design: Bill Ellsworth
Produced by Phillip Johnston.

Web: www.microscopicseptet.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MicroscopicSeptet

Thanks to Kickstarter.com; Roberto’s Woodwinds/Michiko Rehearsal Studios; Jon Rosenberg; Tom Tedesco; Kaz; Lee Roth; and Steve, Joyce and Javier at Cuneiform Records.

Kickstarter Donors:
Beloved Sponsors
James Baker, Rich Borow, Geraldine Barnes & Donald Burkett, Pat Cannone, Jerry Clements, Bob Cohen, James Cropcho, Lesli Dalaba, Scraps deSelby, Gary Eckstein, Gail & Ron O'Keefe Edson, Seth Fallon, Steve Fox, Kelly Guevara, Miriam Hart, Danny Heifetz, Allison Heim, Nick Henry, Pat Irwin, Taylor Jessen, Tom Johnston, Drew Keller, Mark Knego, Verity Laughton, Mark Levine, James Loughnan, James Marcus, Ruth Melville, William Merrill, Rich Moyers, William Niederkorn, Charlie Niessner, Lisa Noordergraaf, Metin Oner, Elizabeth Panzer, Anita Pollard, Peter Jason Riley, Jane Rosenblum, Luigi Santosuosso, Walter Schretzman, Susan Shanahan, Jack Skowron, Damian Smith, Doug Spencer, Ann Sprayregen, Michael Steinman, Jay Swift, Ed Tomney, Stephanie Umeda, Ron Weinstock, Jason Weiss, Eric Whittington, Steve Whittle, Rich Williams, Linda Winters, Brian Woodbury, and Stas Zakharenko

Highly Beloved Sponsors
Hans Accola, Tom Bombara, Larry Cowen, Dr. Brent Grazman, Graham Greenleaf, Peter Keepnews, Maurice Kessler, Diane Lutwak, Mark Lutwak, Warren Matthew, David J. Rodriguez, Seton Smith, Lynne Tillman, and Ian Wilkie

Highly, Highly Beloved Sponsors
Anna Bell, Donald Elfman & Jennifer Stevens, Jim Katzin, Carla & Matt Reiner, Helen Scott, and Jennifer Stevens

Highly, Highly, Highly Beloved Sponsors
Lee Roth


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Cuneiform Records Washington, D.C.

Cuneiform Records is an independent record label releasing adventurous, boundary-bursting music by artists from around the world.

Founded in 1984.
Based in Washington D.C.

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