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 Michael’s 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.
London has become the epicentre of a new wave of jazz and jazz related sounds, and amongst the scene there is a deep pool of artists and labels who have all contributed to this shift in musical-direction. One such label is Whirlwind Recordings: a musician-owned and operated indie that has released an eclectic catalogue of over 130 albums since its inception in 2010, while garnishing a global following of fans and supporters. The label provides a platform for showcasing adventurous & visceral music that spans genres, is rooted in originality and has a key emphasis on the improvised. The artists on the label range from established masters to guiding lights of their generation to undiscovered stars in the making.
“Whirlwind Recordings gives modern jazz a fresh, new face. The label’s inspired roster of talent bridges genres, instruments and generations—a testament to founder Michael Janisch’s insight into not only where jazz has been, but where it’s headed.”