After the fantastic retrospective double whammy published by Cuneiform in 2006 (two volumes of History Of The Micros, featuring everything the group had released until then), The Microscopic Septet started a period of touring, the performances welcomed by enthusiastic audiences most everywhere. This prompted the co-leaders, sax player Phillip Johnston and pianist Joel Forrester, to return to a semi-regular activity and, especially, to record this new artefact – the first in twenty years.
Lobster Leaps In might lack a tad of the efficiency and some of the unpredictable explosions of hilarity of the earlier materials, yet it remains a valid release in every aspect, with hints to a middle-aged kind of harmonic exquisiteness that should not be overlooked. The superimposition of styles typical of the band has remained intact, but the quality of playing is now enriched by a more relaxed, nearly contemplative feel that occasionally becomes the reason – preposterously, one would think – of a pinch of sadness, that deriving from the scent of epochs that are gone forever. As hard as one tries to mask the mood under a layer of waxy cheerfulness, the memories keep lingering on; for sure the music contributes to raise the spirit, not to throw us in a hole of depression.
Difficult, in fact, to remain at a standstill when listening to the persistently changing scenarios of “Got Lucky”, catchy melodies unfolding upon an ever-varying succession of impressions. Yet the beginning of the subsequent track, “Lies”, almost reminds of Henry Cow - or Muffins, if you will - in its solemn approach to contrapuntal convergence before the piece takes complete shape, a swinging journey to boogie and reminisce with. The execution, here as in large portions of the album, is technically perfect – except various moments in which the “relax factor” introduces a few missed appointments in terms of rhythmic precision. But it’s all acceptable and, in a way, part of the game.
The greatness of this ensemble – also comprising Don Davis, Mike Hashim, Dave Sewelson, David Hofstra and Richard Dworkin – resides in the detached manner in which the music is rendered, just like a combo performing night after night while facing dancing folks. They know the tunes inside and out, thus being able to carry out the set while looking at the bizarre facets of human interrelation occurring in front of their eyes. “Almost Right”, though, would probably have caused additional trouble in times of war, full as it is of extremely dissonant parallelisms and quirky counter-themes. Needless to say, it’s among the disc’s best tracks.
In the era of computerized vacuum, this outing is a veritable oasis of acoustic relief. Good vibrations or nostalgic echoes, it doesn’t matter: the Micros belong to that endangered species called “musicians”. Those strange animals who can really play an instrument and transmit energies, a living organism with its muscles, bones, wrinkles and several scars, too – and whose appearance elicits immediate recognition and respect.