May we suggest that the soundtrack
for the rest of your day be...

The Microscopic Septet
Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk

Cover art by: Barry Blitt

All songs composed by:
Thelonious Monk, except track 12 (Monk/Clarke).

All songs arranged by:
Phillip Johnston and Joel Forrester, except
Track 9 Bob Montalto

Music performed by:
The Microscopic Septet (click here for line-up)

Download/Listen to "Bye-Ya" from the Thelonious Monk tribute by the Microscopic Septet.


Since being released by Cuneiform Records on October 5, 2010, this Monk tribute album has continued to received a steady stream of glowing press, and ever-growing numbers of new fans.

Some recent press includes:


"... Part of what makes the Micros' take on these familiar tunes so enjoyable is their willingness to engage with Monk's sense of humor; the "difficulty" of his music is frequently puckish rather than forbidding, and too few musicians recognize that fact or capitalize on it. The group's unusual configuration...makes possible some very interesting timbral juxtapositions, and they make the most of that potential as well. ...longtime fans who think they've heard every possible interesting arrangement of these tunes should think again."
- Rick Anderson

"... Friday the 13th proves, again, that the music of Thelonious Monk is universal, timeless, and open to endless interpretation. ..."
- Steve Greenlee, March 2011


"Devoid of clichés and the old wine-new bottle equation, The Microscopic Septet, as anticipated, delivers the goods with its signature mode of adventure and quirkiness. It's a colloquy that professes a sense of newness under the portent that the musicians have aligned their creative juices with Monk's spirit—and nod of approval from above."
- Glenn Astarita, January 4 2011

"Adding three extra saxophones to Monk’s basic sax-piano-bass-drums arrangements transforms them into a kaleidoscope of color. Phillip Johnston’s soprano refracts Steve Lacy, while Mike Hashim’s tenor can’t help but swing. A MINUS"
- Tom Hull, May 11 2011

"... They are just the right band for the job, playing with love rather than reverence. ... The result is enduring and highly entertaining."
- John Shand, December 3 2010

"...The charm of The Micros has always been their joyous, unself-conscious collage of different jazz styles. They are a kind of sleek swing band one moment, a Latin jazz group the next, a group of ‘60s avant-eek-onkers just a moment later. And it’s all played with the kind of zippity zest that keeps things entertaining. That is the just the treatment that Dear Ol’ Thelonious gets here. ..."
- Will Layman, February 24 2011


1. Brilliant Corners  (5:09)
2. Friday the 13th  (5:45)
3. Gallop's Gallop  (5:22)
4. Teo  (4:29)
5. Pannonica  (5:15)
6. Evidence  (5:42)
7. We See  (5:50)
8. Off Minor  (4:34)
9. Bye-Ya  (3:37)
10. Worry Later  (5:04)
11. Misterioso  (5:39)
12. Epistrophy  (2:54)

All songs composed by:
Thelonious Monk, except 12 (Monk/Clarke).

Published by:
Thelonious Music, except 8 (Embassy Music)
and 12 (Embassy Music/Music Sales).

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 11 arranged by:
Phillip Johnston.

Tracks 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 arranged by:
Joel Forrester.

Track 9 arranged by:
Bob Montalto.


Phillip Johnston
soprano saxophone

Don Davis
alto saxophone

Mike Hashim
tenor saxophone

Dave Sewelson
baritone saxophone

Joel Forrester

David Hofstra

Richard Dworkin

Recorded at:
Systems II Studios, Brooklyn.

Engineered, mixed and mastered by:
Jon Rosenberg.

Assistant Engineer:
Max Ross

Cover art:
Barry Blitt

Lars Klove

Graphic design:
Bill Ellsworth

Produced by:
Phillip Johnston


The Microscopic Septet
Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk

“If the Micros have a spiritual beacon, it’s Thelonious Monk. Like the maverick bebop pianist, they persevere...  Their expanding core audience thrives on the group’s impeccable arrangements, terse, angular solos, and devil-may-care attitude. But Monk and the Micros have something else in common as well.

Johnston tells a story: “Someone once walked up to Monk and said, “You know, Monk, people are laughing at your music.’ Monk replied, ‘Let ‘em laugh. People need to laugh a little more.”
Richard Gehr, Newsday, New York 1989 

There is immense power and careful logic in the music of Thelonious Sphere Monk. But you might have such a good time listening to it that you might not even notice. …His tunes… warmed the heart with their odd angles and bright colors. …he knew exactly how to make you feel good…  The groove was paramount: When you’re swinging, swing some more,” he’d say. .”
Vijay Iyer, “Ode to a Sphere,” JazzTimes, 2010

The late jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917-82) is one of the top creative deities  in the pantheon of American Jazz Greats.  He is one of jazz’s greatest composers; Penguin Guide to Jazz  notes that Monk’s  “output ranks with that of Morton and Ellington.” Monk’s tunes, once considered radical and appreciated by only a small cognoscenti, are now beloved standards, and may well be the most frequently covered jazz tunes on recordings.  His creative brilliance continues to resonate over time; a surge of interest in the composer this year has led 2010 to be called “the Year of the Monk.”

The music of Thelonious Monk, as it escaped the windows of a Downtown New York apartment, was the catalyst that sparked the creation of one of New York’s most legendary and important jazz groups, the Microscopic Septet. Since it was founded in 1980, under the co-leadership and co-compostional duties of soprano saxophonist and composer Phillip Johnston and pianist and composer  Joel Forrester, “the Micros” have been  responsible for creating some of the most captivating and memorable original tunes and performing some of the most entertaining shows in the past 40 years of American jazz. In 1974, the Monk tune: “Well You Needn’t” first brought the future Micros co-leaders together by chance.  Johnston was living in the Bowery at the time, and Forrester, hearing music, barged into his apartment, unannounced: “I was playing a Thelonious Monk tune, and a guy I had never seen before came walking through my door, which wasn’t locked- those were the hippie days…” The encounter sparked a friendship and working relationship, in which Monk’s music reverberated on  multiple levels across the years.  Another chance encounter – at chicken and ribs place West Boondock, following his performance of Monk’s “Pannonica” on the restaurant’s piano – forged Forrester’s friendship with the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. And through the Baroness, Forrester would ultimately meet and periodically play piano for Monk.

Since Johnston and Forrester’s first meeting, Monk’s music  has remained an inspiration and guiding light throughout their music careers –  and across more than 4-decades. In addition to creating and playing their own music, they always played Monk’s music: as a duo, in Forrester’s quartets and large groups, and, from the band’s very beginning in 1980, with the Microscopic Septet. Micros gigs always included  their arrangements of Monk tunes, but due to the Micros’ limited number of releases (5 albums) and  their copious original songbook (more than 180 tunes), they only previously recorded Forrester’s arrangement  of  Monk’s ‘Crepuscle For Nellie.’

The new Micros CD released on Cuneiform,  Friday The 13th: The Micros Play Monk rectifies this omission. Featuring original arrangements of 12 Monk tunes, half from “back in the day” and half newly-written for this recording,  the Microscopic Septet make clear their line of descent from Monk.  The humor and angularity of Monk’s compositions mesh easily and joyfully with the elaboration and juxtaposition  of the Micros-style arranging.   Definitively not a dry deconstruction, this is a true celebration of  Monk by a group that can arguably be called his most sensitive and sensational heirs.

Featuring gorgeous art work by New Yorker artist Barry Blitt – the man responsible for the infamous and controversial "Michelle and Barack 'fist-bump'" cover and other contentious-yet-humorous artwork- and liner notes by jazz critic and long-time Micros fan Peter Keepnews, Friday the 13th is surprising yet inevitable: a long overdue party with the master, at which The Micros Play Monk.

Friday the 13th  arrives amidst a perfect storm of works in multiple media devoted to or about Monk. Dubbed by Jazz Times as ‘Year of the Monk’, 2010 has thus far witnessed  a biographical book on Monk by Robin Kelley, a documentary film on Monk’s patron and friend Pannonica, called The Jazz Baroness, and several Cds of Monk tunes by various musicians.  Transcending mere tribute, the Microscopic Septet’s Friday the 13th distills Monk’s heady and humoorous essence, revives his iconoclastic spirit, and revels in, and with, the creative compositions of Monk.


Please also contact me if you need more information, or a promo copy (digital or physical) of the album Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk.


P.O. Box 8427
Silver Spring, MD 20910