Microscopic Septet

Beauty Based on Science

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The last of four albums recorded by this madcap New York City band co-led by Phillip Johnston and Joel Forrester, Beauty Based on Science ends their all-too-brief career on a high note. As usual, the pieces take their cues from a multitude of sources, including film noir soundtracks, Ellington, barrelhouse blues, and Steve Lacy, all performed with an odd combination of homage and tongue-in-cheek, spiced with a liberal dose of free jazz in the solo work. The near-obligatory tango shows up in Johnston's slyly titled "Waltz of the Recently Punished Catholic School Boys." Their horn arrangements are possibly richer than ever, shown to great advantage in compositions like "Come From Behind" (a small classic and frequent live performance highlight) and Johnston's "Rocky's Heart." Forrester's bouncy, infectious "Lobster in the Limelight," also a band mainstay, offers another example of the Micros at the top of their game, with its giddy riffs providing exactly the right balance and support for all manner of free soloing by Paul Shapiro and Dave Sewelson. When the bandmembers break out into synchronized handclaps, it's impossible not to crack a smile. Johnston would go on to do enjoyable work with several groups, including Big Trouble and the Transparent Quartet, but fans of those bands would do well to hear his unique roots in this band.

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