Somewhere in the dark recesses of my youth the popular perception of Friday the 13th transitioned from bad luck to truly deadly. Blame rests squarely on the shoulders of a popular series of pointless and offensive slasher flicks, of course, but the change also can be seen as part of a larger coarsening of our society.
Those readers looking for an intelligent, edgy remedy, let me suggested an overlooked jazz gem: the Microscopic Septet’s “Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk” (2010).
The disc received much critical acclaim at the time of its release, including raves in The Village Voice, downbeat, JazzTimes and The Wall Street Journal. It also marked something of a triumphal return for the band, which formed in the New York Downtown scene in the 1980s, recorded four albums (“Take the Z Train,” “Off Beat Glory,” “Beauty Based on Science” and “Let’s Flip!”) before splitting in the early ‘90s and reuniting a decade-plus later. The group features Richard Dworkin (drums), David Hofstra (bass), Phillip Johnston (soprano saxophone), Mike Hashim (tenor saxophone), Dave Sewelson (baritone saxophone), Don Davis (alto saxophone) and Joel Forrester (piano).
“Friday the 13th” was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and features the Septet working its way through a dozen Monk tunes, including the title track, “Brilliant Corners,” “Pannonica,” “Worry Later,” “Misterioso” and “Epistrophy.”
For this recording, the Microscopic Septet made clear their line of descent from Thelonious Monk. The humor and angularity of Monk’s compositions mesh easily and joyfully with the elaboration and juxtaposition of the Micros-style arranging. This was a true celebration of Monk by a group that could arguably be called his most sensitive and sensational heirs. Transcending mere tribute, the Microscopic Septet’s “Friday the 13th” distills Monk’s heady and humorous essence, revives his iconoclastic spirit, and revels in, and with, the creative compositions of Thelonious Monk.
The results are such that you will applaud your good luck in encountering this recording.
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