CD review

Michael Janisch – Worlds Collide

Michael Janisch – Worlds Collide
(Whirlwind Recordings. WR4742. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Michael Janisch has put together a band of some of the best players from London and New York for this new record, which grew out of a concert he played at the EFG London Jazz Festival in 2017. Janisch himself spans both worlds, an American living in London who has brought much to the thriving British jazz scene – not least setting up Whirlwhind Recordings, which has released many records by young British bands.

This cross fertilisation pays off time and time again. Taking inspiration from the people around him and the city he has made his home, Worlds Collide is a rich and varied collective of music, full of vitality and optimism.

The core band of a quintet of Janisch on bass, Jason Palmer (trumpet), John O’Gallagher (alto saxophone), Rez Abbasi on guitar and Clarence Penn on drums. They are joined on a couple of tracks by George Crowley on tenor saxophone, John Escreet on keyboards and Andrew Bain on drums and percussion. The CD has a great sound, with all the instruments having depth, punch and clarity. Each track evokes a different mood, a different view of Janisch’s world.

From the outset, Another London sets the standard for the album. A lively bass riff plays against a crisp, straight ahead drum beat, the tension between the two bringing a bounce to the step; trumpet, saxes and keyboards add further layers over which a choppy guitar phrase plays. A bowed bass solo provides an interlude before a saxophone solo brings back the main theme.

Several of the tracks consist of different sections, suite-like in their construction, providing ample space for the musicians to improvise. Pop, the longest track on the album (and perhaps the least poppy – it is named forJanisch’s wife) opens with a somewhat mournful solo saxophone before a slow, spacious section sees the band create a reflective atmosphere. They move on to a variety of combinations, Abbasi’s guitar setting down a simple line against the bass before Janisch and O’Gallagher duet. The piece closes with trumpet and saxophone over the guitar line. It encompasses a variety of moods.

Frocklebot is the most abstract piece on the CD, with sections in which first O’Gallagher, Abbasi and Palmer and then the whole band improvise freely. It closes with trumpet and saxophone in dialogue, playing related phrases shifting in relation to each other.

The CD balances freedom and restraint, groove and reflection, the whole creating a snapshot. Janisch’s writing allows the soloists the space to create and results in some engaging, memorable music.

The Michael Janisch Band are playing a short tour in September, with gigs in Glasgow (24/9), Edinburgh (25/9) and Birmingham (26/9), culminating with a show at Kings Place, London on 27/9.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

LINKS: Michael Janisch interview

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