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

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The Microscopic Septet has been around for 30 years, but until recently the band-though influenced by Thelonious Monk from its earliest days-had recorded a grand total of one Monk tune. Now comes Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk, an album of 12 Monk covers. It is splendid fun.

Friday the 13th proves, again, that the music of Thelonious Monk is universal, timeless, and open to endless interpretation. Who knew that the bebop pianist’s work could be recast as a military march (“Friday the 13th”), Latin-tinged swing (“Bye-Ya”) or a punk-rock jam (“Teo”)? No, these 12 cuts aren’t by-the-numbers retreads; the Micros’ leaders, pianist Joel Forrester and soprano saxophonist Phillip Johnston, bring their own arrangements to bear. Some toe the line fairly close to Monk’s intentions; others skew toward iconoclasm. In the case of “Teo,” a funk-rock rhythm evolves into a hard-rock beat, while Dave Sewelson goes all nutty on the baritone sax with squawking that escalates into a maelstrom.

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