the microscopic septet

The Microscopic Septet was formed by Phillip Johnston in the early eighties.  At the time, the band released four albums, displaying their ability to extrapolate the swing sound to a wide range of musical styles.
The band's line-up has five (sometimes even six) saxophones, a piano, a tuba and drums, which makes the music sound very powerful, very vivid and sometimes even gives it a cartoonish flavour.

 Although not appearing on any of the albums, John Zorn was one of the original alto saxophone players of the Microscopic Septet.

"Seven Men in Neckties" combines the "Take the Z train" and the "Let's Flip!" album, also including a bunch of unreleased tracks. The "Surrealistic Swing" CD set presents the "Off Beat Glory" and the "Beauty Based On Science" albums.

Phillip Johnston is also the driving force behind Fast 'n Bulbous, The Captain Beefheart Project.


  the microscopic septet: take the z train
    (1983, lp, usa, press records)
  the microscopic septet: let's flip!
    (1985, lp, usa, osmosis records)
  the microscopic septet: off beat glory
    (19??, )
  the microscopic septet: beauty based on science
  the microscopic septet: seven men in neckties
    (2006, 2cd, usa, cuneiform records rune 236/237)
  the microscopic septet: surrealistic swing
    (2006, 2cd, usa, cuneiform records 238/239)


THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET reunites to tour the Northeast THIS MONTH!!!!!


2006 Gigs:

Upcoming MICROSCOPIC SEPTET 2006 Appearances

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
@ The Iron Horse Music Hall, 7 PM
20 Center Street, Northampton, MA 01060
$15 advance, $18 door

Thursday, November 30th, 2006
@ World Cafe Live, 8 PM
3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
(Terry will be MC'ing the show)

Friday, December 1st, 2006
WNYC-FM, "Sound Check w/ John Shaefer"

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006
@ Joe's Pub, 9:30 PM
425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY

[Please note that tour dates are subject to change; for updated tour information visit]


The Microscopic Septet:

Band Members:


The Microscopic Septet, one of New York's best kept jazz secrets during their reign Downtown from 1980-1992, are reuniting to perform 3 East Coast concerts in late November/early December 2006.  The Micros are performing to celebrate Cuneiform Record's release of "History of the Micros," a two-part, four-disc retrospective of the Microscopic Septet which puts the spotlight back on a band that should have never left the stage.  "History of the Micros" contains the music from all four of the band's albums, plus an additional 11 tracks never released during the band's lifetime (including two versions of the theme song the Micros famously wrote and recorded for NPR's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross").  Praised by All Music Guide and All About, these reissues finally make widely available the 'immortal' and 'mind-expanding' music of the Microscopic Septet.

The music of The Microscopic Septet was the sound of jazz in 20th Century America:  all of it, from Ellington to Ayler, bebop to Zorn,  Dixieland  to experimental,  captured in a microcosm.  It distilled the essence of jazz as a popular  music into a sound that swung,  a music that was intelligent, sometimes smart-aleck,  and always good clean fun. Optimistic and upbeat,  full of innocent confidence,  the Microscopic Septet captured not only the sound of jazz, but also the sound - or soundtrack - of 20th Century America. No wonder,  then, that when National Public Radio (NPR) needed a new theme song for one of its most popular shows, "Fresh Air, with Terry Gross", broadcast  to every home in America, it asked this band to compose the tune and has used it ever since.

Sounding like no one else, the Microscopic Septet was the only living jazz band in 1980s/90s NYC that was playing traditional jazz - swing music - and keeping it 'real', extending it into the future. Ironically, while purists feared that the Micros were undermining traditional jazz, the band had done the opposite. "Surrealistic Swing" - the music of the Microscopic Septet - was the jazz swing music of the late 20th Century. They extended swing into the present, bringing free blowing from the lofts and Knitting Factory noise into the dance hall, and introducing the radio age to TV theme songs. As a modern swing band steeped in dance-hall tradition, The Microscopic Septet thrived on live performance. "We were all about playing," says Micros founder and co-leader Phillip Johnston; "all we really wanted to do was have a good time and play the best music we could imagine, the best we knew how."

Don't miss this one-time reunion of one of NYC's finest live bands!!







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