Worlds Collide (Whirlwind Recordings)
Released September 6, 2019
Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2019
Following the breadth of 2015’s live and post-processed electro-acoustic release Paradigm Shift, bassist Michael Janisch launches new project Worlds Collide with a band featuring saxophonist John O’Gallagher, trumpeter Jason Palmer, guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer Clarence Penn. Recorded in Abbey Road’s legendary Studio 3, and engineered/mastered by Tyler McDiarmid, it also includes guest saxophonist George Crowley, keyboardist John Escreet and drummer/percussionist Andrew Bain.
Tirelessly active as solo artist, session player, composer, producer and record label owner across the British, US and European scenes, Janisch recalls the beginnings of this creative shift in direction. “At the 2017 EFG London Jazz Festival, a triple bill of Whirlwind bands was showcased by Serious at Rich Mix, where I was thrilled to premiere a sequence of new music that I’d been writing. The original tour (mainly in the UK) featured this core band who had all come over from New York; but excitingly, as a project recording, it now provides a springboard for me to develop and perform these and upcoming compositions with other line-ups, including the next phase with fellow London-based artists. The influence of living in the capital, over the past fifteen years, has crept into my musical being, so I see this new era as a big transition.”
Twofold title ‘Worlds Collide’ primarily speaks of the variety in Janisch’s six engaging tracks. Each is quite different to its neighbor because this is a collection of individual pieces written over a period of time, often personal in their inspiration, driven purely out of his mindset and experiences in those moments. But he also sees it as analogous to what is going on in the wider world right now, especially the continual toxicity of social disclosure driven by tribalist views from differing positions on the political spectrum.”
The rock-driven strut of ‘Another London’, with fundamental ostinato bass groove, guitar-and-synth vistas and lush horns, reflects Janisch’s positive view of walking through this great city – away from the bile of social media platforms, clear evidence of “people from different cultures and backgrounds actually getting on in their lives, generally living in harmony with each other.” It’s a decidedly cool groove, interspersed with contemplation, featuring an epic alto arc from O’Gallagher (“Everyone’s ‘the best’, right? But John really is one of the very best”). Rez Abbasi’s mesmeric guitar figure maps out ‘An Ode to a Norwegian Strobe’ (Janisch is a big fan of Strobes and Aphex Twin, as well as regularily performs with Norway’s jazz star Marius Neset), and its sumptuous buoyancy is fully explored by the band to cinematic conclusion.
‘The JJ Knew’ – a personal, family lament originating as spontaneous improv on Michael’s previous album – illuminates its foundational melancholy with positive thought. His fabulously mobile Fender is still at heart of this questioning episode, and it’s a great result of his assertion that “improvisation is right-in-the-moment composition, so why not just trust in it?” Kids can be massively, even randomly creative, and the free-spirited nature of ‘Frocklebot’ is named after “an imaginary toy looking like a giraffe with mechanical wings” created by the bassist’s daughter. Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry might be summoned in this exploratory world developing free solos between Palmer and Abbasi, then Janisch and O’Gallagher.
A beautiful alto intro to four-part mini-suite ‘Pop’ (‘poppet’, dedicated to Sarah, his wife) belies its minor key with a happy, sunshiny glow, the slow and glorious progression reflecting her “peaceful powerfulness”; and ‘Freak Out’ – a tricksy “good old-fashioned shred for Rez” with near-on big-band hits finds the guitarist building sheets of sound redolent of ‘70s McLaughlin and Holdsworth.
The technical and emotional wonder of Worlds Collide was nailed in Clarence Penn’s immediate, adrenalin-rushed quip to Michael Janisch, once the whole album was ‘wrapped’: “Congratulations on a great record – you’re really gonna turn some heads with this!” What he was chiefly getting at is the simple truth that, right here, is a celebration of boundary-crossing contemporary jazz unfolding in all its captivating, artistic magnificence. Janisch has glimpsed a new horizon for himself and, with inimitable verve, is going for it.
1. Another London (Michael Janisch) 07:03
2. An Ode to a Norwegian Strobe (Michael Janisch) 06:05
3. The JJ I Knew (Michael Janisch) 08:05
4. Frocklebot (Michael Janisch) 09:04
5. Intro to Pop (Michael Janisch) 01:14
6. Pop (Michael Janisch) 12:49
7. Freak Out (Michael Janisch) 07:25
Michael Janisch: double and electric basses, post production percussion
Jason Palmer: trumpet
John O’Gallagher: alto saxophone
Rez Abbasi: guitar
Clarence Penn: drums
John Escreet: keyboards
George Crowley: tenor saxophone
Andrew Bain: drums and percussion
Recorded November 12, 2017, at Studio 3, Abbey Road Studios
Engineered by Tyler McDiarmid
Assistant engineer: Matt Mysko
Additional recording January 26, 2019, at Nonsuch Park Studio
with George Crowley and Andrew Bain
Engineered by Julian Kindred
Additional Recording January 2019, in NYC with John Escreet
Produced by Michael Janisch
Mixed and Mastered by Tyler McDiarmid
Executive Producer: Michael Janisch
Original Canvas Painting ‘Worlds Collide’: Bernard David
Graphic Design: Monika S Jakubowska
Photography: Rob Blackham
Janisch enjoys considerable kudos as the founder and head of the dynamic independent record label Whirlwind Recordings, but that should not overshadow his skill as a leader, composer and soloist. This new album is a worthy follow-up to 2015’s Paradigm Shift, and while it tackles similar themes of social and political regression, especially in an online world, the writing and arranging have gone up a notch. Janisch has long been a gifted player whose command of electric and acoustic bass has seen him work in a wide variety of settings, but this new songbook draws a coherent line through groove, swing and avant-garde sensibilities without sounding stilted. All the virtuosity of a formidable transatlantic horn and rhythm section comprising Jason Palmer, Rez Abassi, John O’Gallagher, George Crowley and John Escreet, among others, is well channelled into music that, often in odd meters, maintains a distinct quality of dance. As exemplified on the fine opening track, ‘Another London’, Janisch’s band also fashions ear-catching textures by drawing on vocabulary that may have been once decried but could be creeping back into fashion, such as the string-like synthesizer pads of late 1970s/80s fusion. The sound is highly effective when cast against combinations of upright bass, guitar, brass and reeds. There are some fine solos on offer, particularly from Abassi and O’Gallagher, but this is first and foremost an ensemble offering impressively helmed by a bandleader who is in the ascendant.
Kevin Le Gendre (Jazzwise)
Michael Janisch interview: https://www.jazzwise.com/features/article/michael-janisch-people-have-become-so-tribal-which-is-what-humans-do-anyway-it-s-quite-scary-at-times-and-that-s-what-worlds-collide-is-about