Let's Flip! (Wire June 1986)
"...The four-sax front line weaves through some interesting arrangements... but never manage to sound as though there are any ideas behind the noise. The marching-band effect of massed saxes never quite comes off and the rhythm section lends only rather unsteady, if vigorous support.... ...But then I'd just read the liner note, which must rank as one of the stupidest ever put on the outside of a record."
- Brian Morton, Wire
The Microscopic Septet at the JVC Jazz Festival
(NY Times, July 1, 1989)
"The Microscopic Septet opened the show. A mock big band, it's cloying, cute arrangements melted into a morass of out-of-tune playing and routines that tried vainly imagine the past as kitsch. Humor works if the musicianship is competent; deadly and unswinging, the band's rhythmic flaccidity, when mixed with the room's flashing acoustics, added up to noise but no energy."
-Peter Watrous, New York Times
Normalology (Jazz Times Feb 98)
"Johnston defies the formulaic, just barely, with numbers that are credibly cutesy and cleverly cogent, in the Raymond Scott tradition... Amusingly or maddeningly, Johnston's tongue seems firmly planted in his cheek..."
-Fred Bouchard, Jazz Times
The Unknown (CD) (Jazz Times Mar 98)
"...this is not a disc one would necessarily make return trips to for sustenance..."
-Willard Jenkins, Jazz Times
The Unknown (live performance) (Boston Globe Oct 93)
"...Speaking of sound, this silent is accompanied by Phillip Johnson [sic] leading his new band in new music he wrote. Sometimes it can be too much of a not-so-good thing. The music, to be blunt, is intrusive. It may not be ego-tripping, like Ennio Morricone's abominable music for "Metropolis" a few years ago. It may just be the result of an overconscientious responsiveness. But these mostly powerful images don't need a lot of sonic help. They certainly don't need a blaring sonic layer of clamor when Chaney's agonized eyes express all the clamor the theater needs. Live musical accompaniments to restored silents defeat the purpose when they become, in effect, concerts accompanied by images. The music should stay incidental, not overwhelm the film. The film, not the music, should be the event."
- Jay Carr, The Boston Globe
|On a fancy White House dinner he attended:
"It was hard to have a conversation with anyone, there were so many people talking."
- Yogi Berra