Sunday, August 18, 2019

Michael Janisch - Worlds Collide (Whirlwind Recordings, 2019) ****

By Sammy Stein

Michael Janisch is known to many as a musician and the force behind one of the UK's biggest jazz labels with a focus on European recordings, Whirlwind Recordings. He has been nominated for a MOBO Award and covered extensively by Jazzwise, NPR, the Guardian, Downbeat, The Telegraph, Jazz FM, BBC 2,3, 6 Music and more. The new album is an exciting listen and an adventurous one, following Paradigm shift, his 2015 project, yet very different in its essence.' Worlds Collide' sees Michael combining contemporary jazz influenced by London/New York scenes alongside free improvisations and soaring melodies over multi-metered grooves paying homage to artists such as Feli Kuti & Afro-Beat and the electronic music pioneer Aphex Twin. The influences are international and the styles varied and experimental, reflecting music he has championed through Whirlwind Recordings for so long. The album features Michael on double and electric basses and post production percussion, Jason Palmer on trumpet, John O'Gallagher on alto saxophone, Rez Abbasi on guitar and Clarence Penn on drums with guests John Escreet on Keys, George Crowley on tenor saxophone and Andrew Bain on drums and percussion . It was recorded at Abbey road Studio 3 in London. Michael says of this project he sees it as a new era and a big transition. The six tracks were written over a period of time, resulting in each having its own identity due to different inspirations.

The CD opens with the rock influenced 'Another London' announced by a strong bass line over which arcing themes are introduced and some rich horns and a mesmeric saxophone solo from John O'Gallagher. It reflects Janisch's positive view of walking through London and the diversity he observes and right through has a walking gait underneath. With the changes in layers, the listener senses the different people and areas observed, from cool shaded avenues to fast moving, noisy areas and at times, short peaceful interludes and a sense of time slowing, particularly in the key-led middle section. Then we are off, strolling, looking, seeing and hearing, the sax solo taking us to secret places hitherto only dreamt of. In 'An Ode To A Norwegian Strobe' the music centres at the start around the guitar patterns set by Rez Abbasi and the track is uplifting, the melodic lines explored and changed as the tack moves, ever quick, ever stirred, ever moving apart from a couple of quieter interludes, forward with each musicians having a say in how it is done.

'The JJ Knew' - has a sense of questioning and has been developed from an improvised personal, family lament from Michael's previous album - the depth of the melody, which is laid back and thoughtful is interjected with racey, faster pieces, indicating positive thoughts. The trumpet solo is glorious, soaring, searching and explorative with a lengthy drum and horns inter-discussion in the latter stages.

'Frocklebot' is named after an imaginary toy resembling a giraffe with mechanical wings created by the bassist's daughter. The opening is fan-fared question and answers from brass, horns and strings and percussion before a whole band dialogue is set up before a conversation between trumpet and guitar work the remains of the first half well. The dialogue is then handed over to bass and sax just before the half way mark. The guitar at times has a Sonny Sharrock tone whilst the patterns could be lifted from Coleman or Cherry. The sax and bass portion is explorative, emotive and driven forward by percussive lines, reflected by both players with the diversity of the bass being shown and it includes a lovely short swing-leaning interlude towards the subtle yet powerful finish with the trumpet and guitar re-joining. The percussion on this track changes fluidly and is outstanding.
The four part mini-suite 'Pop' is introduced by a gorgeous alto sax solo. Short but sweet. 'Pop' itself is dedicated to Michael's wife and, set in a minor key, is evocative and draws on the heart strings from the get-go. It has a peace about it and also a reflectiveness, as though watching something beautiful yet not quite able to capture it. Over the slight melancholy imbued by the minor key are sets of short, uplifting, tempo changes and solos breakout and vanish again, like ripples on a serene surface. It is a beautiful piece with the deep, redolence of the bass lines contrasting wonderfully with the horns, brass and guitar lines. At around the 5 minute mark is a lovely interlude between sax and bass with the sax soaring away, held in check only by the slow tempo and fixed key of the bass line before the piece settles into a melodic section, guitar led and prettier, before melding into gentleness again. The switch in beat emphasis in the final section adds further interest and layers.

'Freak Out' develops a groove from the start and an almost orchestral arrangement before the guitar develops sheets and waves of sound, turning rocky and jazzy tricks, supported in full by the rest of the musicians as they take their turns. This track shows the band as solo players and yet gloriously together too.

This is a CD which at once is different yet stuffed full with many good things about improvised jazz music. Combining technical wizardry and tweaks with good, solid playing, the music does not so much cross boundaries but rather unites them. It is a creation of a different kind and reflects the continual wonder which Janisch so evidently finds in music of all kinds.

Worlds Collide is available Sept. 6th

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