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Surrealistic Swing: History of the Micros, Volume 2

by The Microscopic Septet

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    This download purchase includes a digital booklet with credits, photos and information.
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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    2 x CDs + digital download + streaming

    Includes unlimited streaming of Surrealistic Swing: History of the Micros, Volume 2 via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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Off Color 01:25
Little Bobby 04:05
The Visit 07:22


Active for a dozen years in the 80s and early 90s, and then again for another decade beginning in the middle 00's, the Microscopic Septet were widely recognized 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.

This beautifully packaged and annotated set includes new cover artwork by Pulitzer-prize winning illustrator Art Spiegelman, new notes by leader Phillip Johnston, lots of great photographs and newly remastered versions of the last two albums by the band: "Off Beat Glory" and "Beauty Based on Science (The Visit)", as well as quite a lot of never-before released material, including two tracks with very early member John Zorn.

The majority of this set has never appeared on CD and all of it has been unavailable for a number of years.

"The Microscopic Septet was one of the most distinctive jazz ensembles in New York during the '80s and early '90s. Combining a love for the big-band sound with a progressive approach to arrangement and composition, the Micros managed to be nostalgic and futuristic at the same time."
- All Music Guide

"...wildly inventive..."
- Wall Street Journal

“...the Micros were dedicated to jazz that swung and was endlessly fun and inventive...a goldmine of material that should delight and inspire...”
– Downbeat


released October 10, 2006

Phillip Johnston: soprano saxophone
Don Davis: alto saxophone (CD1: tracks 1–8, CD2: tracks 1–15)
John Zorn: alto saxophone (CD1: tracks 9–10)
Paul Shapiro: tenor saxophone (CD1: tracks 1–8; CD2: tracks 1–15)
John Hagen: tenor saxophone (CD1: tracks 9–10)
Dave Sewelson: baritone saxophone
Joel Forrester: piano
David Hofstra: bass, tuba
Richard Dworkin: drums

CD 1
Off Beat Glory
1 Brooklyn in the Fifties (Forrester) (5:35)
2 Baghdad Blues (Johnston) (4:40)
3 Crepuscule with Nellie (Monk, arr. Forrester) (5:13)
4 In the Mission (Forrester) (7:36)
5 March of the Video Reptiles (Forrester) (2:41)
6 I Saw You In Utah (Idaho) (Johnston) (5:09)
7 I Am the Police (Johnston) (3:58)
8 By You, Do You Mean You or Me? (Johnston) (6:57)
9 Kelly Grows Up (Forrester) (5:57)
10 Watching Television (Forrester) (0:55)

Tracks 1–8 are from Off Beat Glory, originally released on
Osmosis Records in 1986.
Tracks 9–10 are from a previously unreleased recording session, done before Take the Z Train.

CD 2
Beauty Based on Science (The Visit)
1 Off Color (Forrester) (1:25)
2 Come From Behind (Forrester) (3:57)
3 Rocky’s Heart (Johnston) (7:16)
4 Infernal Garden Blues (Johnston) (5:16)
5 Waltz of the Recently Punished Catholic
School Boys (Johnston) (3:46)
6 Little Bobby (Forrester) (4:05)
7 The Dream Detective (Johnston) (4:19)
8 Lobster in the Limelight (Forrester) (6:19)
9 The Visit (Forrester) (7:22)
10 Fool’s Errand (Forrester) (5:39)
11 Dill Pickle Tango (Montalto) (2:59)
12 One Room Too Far Away (Johnston) (9:14)
13 You Know What You Know (Forrester) (3:59)
14 Fresh Air Theme (Gulf War) (Forrester) (1:00)
15 Fresh Air Theme (Happy Twin) (Forrester) (0:56)

Tracks 1–12 are from Beauty Based on Science (The Visit), originally released on Stash Records in 1988.
Track 13 was recorded for a proposed 7-inch single.
It is previously unreleased.
Tracks 14–15 are two versions of the theme for Fresh Air.


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