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Michael Janisch: Purpose Built

Edward Blanco By

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A relative newcomer on the international jazz scene, Michael Janisch is an American bassist currently living in London and making his debut recording with the very impressive Purpose Built, a potent selection of eight original composition and four familiar jazz standards. Janisch offers a diverse repertoire of melody-rich, sophisticated charts in a musical palette of essentially modern jazz which—with its improvisational approach, time signatures and many intricate lines throughout—would at first, seem appealing to only the most discerning of jazz audiences. Yet a second spin of this disc is especially inviting and comparable to that second sip of fine wine, far more appreciable than the first gulp and better than first thought.

Janisch fashions a striking opener, "Precisely Now," employing a two-saxophone approach with Paul Booth and Walter Smith III doing the honors against the supporting back ground of Jim Hart's vibraphone, in a clearly hard jazz statement of music. This is followed by another intricate tune, this time featuring guitarist Mike Moreno, as the bassist goes electric on "Adelante," a high-energy piece that's perhaps more challenging than the first. Switching back to acoustic bass, the leader opens up the Sammy Fain standard, "Love is A Many Splendored Thing," with teasing bass lines, giving way to pianist Aaron Goldberg, who delivers an absolutely remarkable solo performance and highlight of the disc in a chart nicely arranged by Janisch.

With an all-star ensemble of ten US/UK musicians, the music is creative and innovative, with the seemingly improvised, almost free-style jazz approach to tunes including "Shumshi," "Pukl-n-Pappo" and "Sofa Stomp." Janisch provides one of the better arrangements around of Miles Davis' "Milestones," delivering his best bass solo and showcasing Patrick Cornelius' alto saxophone voice, with Phil Robson dishing out sweet guitar riffs. The somber "Blood Count"—composed by Billy Strayhorn in the hospital shortly before his passing—plays out as soft and humbling as the original, with Goldberg providing the lead on piano as drummer Johnathan Blake takes to the brushes on the disc's only ballad.

Janisch tees off with the electric bass, delivering strong and expanded bass lines to give "Moment's Notice" a new texture never truly envisioned by composer John Coltrane—another example of the leader's imaginative approach to modern jazz. The bassist dedicates the electrifying swing-piece "Beep" to his father David "Beep" Janisch, using alto, tenor, trumpet and a hot vibraphone to generate the steam. Impressive from beginning to end, Purpose Built goes a long way to building a sturdy foundation from which Janisch will undoubtedly carve out a long career in jazz. Excellent musicianship, intelligent compositions and an authoritative approach to the music, makes this recording an unquestionable success.


Track Listing: Precisely Now; Adelante; Love is a Many Splendored Thing; Shumshi; Milestones; Serenade of the Seas; Pukl-n-Pappo; Sofa Stomp; Lost Creek; Blood Count; Beep; Moment's Notice.

Personnel: Michael Janisch: acoustic and electric bass; Paul Booth, Walter Smith III: tenor sax; Jim Hart: vibraphone; Jason Palmer: trumpet; Mike Moreno, Phil Robson: guitar; Aaron Goldberg: piano; Patrick Cornelius: alto sax; Johnathan Blake: drums.

Title: Purpose Built | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd

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