"It's a very new label, led by [expat American] bassist Michael Janisch
," says Robson. "He's got tremendous energy; he's an amazing person. He's doing a lot of good things in the scene over here: he's an entrepreneur; he's a great bassist; and he is also very conscientious and very aware of what's happening on the scene. And he's always checking out new peoplehe's very open-minded. So I think he's fabulous; certainly ambitious, but I think very interested in trying to make a label work."
But irrespective of Siegel and Robson's various side projects, Partisans is clearly the group they call home. "We really see Partisans as a long-term project," says Robson. "We see it as something that we'll always come back to. In a way, taking the long break like we did recently, where we go away to do our own things, we always come back to this band and really bring something back to itthe experiences from doing those other projects. But there's always a view to coming back to this band, and we tend to do it when we feel it will be at its freshest, when it's going to have a whole new lease on life."
Siegel adds, "I think that it feels like a really good time to do it now. Yes, there have been gaps between albums. But the time has always been right for each one; it feels like a natural time for it to happen. It's really been great to come back to the band and start fresh. We've been doing gigs around and people have been asking 'When is a new Partisans album coming about?' It feels like people have really missed the band, so it's been nice to get back together and play again. It's a really special group; I've always really loved playing with this band."
A sentiment clearly shared by Robson, Kelly and Calderazzo, based on an advance listen to Swamp
, which finds the group back and doing what it does best: blending genres with a kind of serendipitous synchronicity, where Afro beat can mix with greasy swamp funk; where the band can respect the tradition with authority and credibility while, at the same time, introducing sounds like Robson's massively over- driven electric guitarat times, one of the truly ugliest distortions heard on a jazz record ("That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me," Robson replies, laughing)rude and totally unapologeticbut one that speaks to Partisans ethos: if they're going to swing, they're going to swing hard
; and if they're going to rock out, they're going to rock out like they mean
"In response to the distortion, yeah, it's funny to me," Robson says. "But there is
a serious side to it. One of the things that I noticed, when I first really started getting into jazz, is that some of the fusion aspects of jazz tended to kind of half go there, but not go all the way. I have a real desire to go there because I'm steeped in it; I grew up listening to that stuffmy favorite bands when I was a kid were bands like Black Sabbath. So it's natural for me that if I'm going to go there at all, it's not going to be a jazzy version of it; it's going to be as hard rock as I can play."
And it isn't just Robson whose genes contain the DNA of hard rock; Calderazzo, too, has always been interested in things beyond the broadest purview of jazz. "The thing about Gene is that he's an American drummer, but he loves Led Zeppelin
, and he's massively into Mitch Mitchell
and the Jimi Hendrix
Experience, so there's a lot of common ground from different sides of the Atlantic and a genuine love for that kind of thing. It's not an affect; it's real to us. I grew up listening to it; Gene grew up listening to it. So, hopefully, when we play that kind of thing, it's real to us."
"Some of my first gigs were rock gigs," Siegel adds, "and I just came back from this Afro beat gig, doing arrangements that were pretty diverse; doing a rock gig with real rock energy that was very exciting, but there was so much jazz in there, too. I really love the mixture and how it changes; expectations change. I love it when the energy's all up and kicking off. In terms of jazz or rock, it's the energy that really excites me about playing with this band. And sometimes it's not really all that comfortable either. I really like the challenging of playing with Gene, Phil and Thad. Sometimes it's very disconcerting: Gene and Thad will just stop behind you and you've got to hold your own."
Phil recalls, "I remember that very fondly on some of the first gigs; I'd never played with anybody who could put out that much energy and yet be willing to just stop
. That was shocking, really."