Take Five With Michael Janisch
Pizza Express Jazz Club in London Soho, without a doubt. It's swanky, has a great stage, acoustics, sound engineer, nice intimate venue with the crowd close to the musicians so the energy feed is great, and not too big at 110 capacity. I've had the fortune of a monthly residency there where I bring in and present musicians from around the world, so this has been an amazing platform for me and my projects and the music managers there really believe in the music, which is refreshing to say the least. Plus the pizza is great.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
The album I am most proud of would be my debut album that I just put out in January. I'm just happy that I finally got around to doing an album and that I saw the project through and came out the other side with something that I can say I'm happy with. Plus, the musicians that performed my music realized my compositions better than I could have ever hoped for.
I've done a lot of side man recordings, but doing one's own recording is musical satisfaction at another level, in my opinion.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
I had a great collection of vinyls and tapes given to me by an early teacher, but the first actual album I bought was Charles Mingus' Black Saint and the Sinner Lady; this rocked my world.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Hopefully having fun but being very serious about what I do. Personally one of my life's goals with jazz is to continue to marry what I've learned from the greats of the past with what's going on now in the musical environment around me.
Did you know...
I quit music for a number of years and did a degree in history, where I ran track and field and played tailback at a Division 2 football program in the American Midwest (my 40 time was 4.41). An injury to my hamstring was the reason I picked up the bass again, as had a lot of time on my hands because I couldn't walk for months. I also completely cut my thumb off when I was 17 on a table saw, and had it surgically reattached. It's weird looking now, and it has the nick name of "The Club" because of its oblong shape.
Finally, I can eat two foot-long subway sandwiches in under two-and-a-half minutes.
CDs you are listening to now:
I listen to a lot of non-jazz, but jazz discs I've been listening to for pleasure lately are:
Larry Goldings, Awakening;
John Coltrane, Sun Ship;
Steve Lehman Octet. Travail Transformation and Flow;
Michael Formanek, Am I Bothering You?;
Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard.
Desert Island picks:
There's no way I could pick 5... I would have to bring my iTunes collection and figure out how to keep my computer running with some sort of solar power.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
For me, jazz is in a great state both artistically and in its global awareness, even though it can be hard both in getting opportunities to play around the world like we all aspire to, or just financially coping being a jazz musician.
There are clubs in every country it seems, and festivals as well, and scenes in many of the world's cities. Artists are taking control of their own careers and for me things get better slowly but surely. I'm very optimistic about real creative jazz and ability to make a career playing this music, that and I'm really stubborn and sort of get off on the struggle of it all.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Without writing a book, real creative jazz musicians need to persevere both artistically and on the business front, if they really believe in their art, and believe that their hard work will pay off. I've seen a lot of musicians even at my age simply get disgruntled and now are giving up or fading away into a teaching gig, etc.
Festivals, clubs, and magazines need to do more to help the up and coming creative musicians who can't afford huge publicity, or who don't have the access to big time agents and managers to score them gigs, but are just as talented and many times even more so than the lucky few people who do have these. Many, many hugely talented up and coming musicians, and even established artists are not being given their deserved chance to perform, while gimmicky and even poor quality acts with certain box ticking abilities are working 20 nights a month... This needs to change in order for real improvisational jazz to keep growing, in my opinion.
What is in the near future?
This May I'm doing a live recording with one of my heroes, Lee Konitz, at my Pizza Express Residency, with Dan Tepfer on piano and Jeff Williams on drums. The album will be going out on my new record label.
Practice, try and get gigs, play basketball and teach.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
owner of a garden/outdoor/creative landscaping center specializing in exotic plants and landscapes.