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Michael Janisch: Purpose Built

Sunday 13th September
City Halls, Recital Room

Sunday night was the Glasgow (and only Scottish) stop on Michael Janisch's album launch UK tour, the album being Purpose Built, his first solo album. It was an OK turnout - maybe 2/3 full - I've seen it busier. According to Mike the audiences have been good so far. But then, Sunday night's aren't good for a lot of people. Myself included in fact - the gig finished later than I expected, at about 10:50pm, and I had planned on being asleep by 10:30pm since I have to get up at 5:25 for work! Cue an apologetic late night text to the guy I lift share with requesting that we drive separately so I can get up later... Anyway, I'm not complaining - it was worth it. And very good value for money as a result (it started at 8pm) - I've been to a few jazz gigs in there for the same price that lasted all of 45min, with no prior notice that it was a short gig, meaning the audience were somewhat disappointed. This was quite the opposite.

Mike has a good way of introducing the band - most gigs I've seen there's just a quick listing of names as an aside, but here we were told a little about each player and where they're from (perhaps because it's a deliberately mixed group of British and American musicians). On tenor sax was Paul Booth, originally from northern England, whom I'd seen a couple of months ago with Ryan Quigley's Big Band on The Ferry, but with whom I'm not otherwise familiar. He has a lovely tone, really clean and smooth, but powerful when required. On trumpet was Jason Palmer, currently of Boston if I recall correctly. I was very impressed by his playing - he could play the really high notes like so many other trumpet players, but unlike others, made them seem effortless. They were an integral part of the music rather than an excuse to show off. He also had a beautiful tone across the range. He played flugel for a few numbers, an instrument I definitely don't see enough of in jazz - such a mellow sound. (If they can have flugel horns in jazz, why not euphonium? It's a missed opportunity!) The vibes player was Jim Hart - not someone I'd heard play before, but he was very good. He was introduced as from Cornwall - turned out there was a small group of other Cornwall natives (what are they called? Cornwellians?) in the audience - what are the chances, at the gig on the tour furthest from Cornwall *g*?

On drums was Clarence Penn, originally of Detroit. He was a special guest (I think?), although I'm not sure if it was just for this part of the tour or the whole tour (the ticket said Damion Reid on it). Anyway, he was great - fascinating to watch. He used his hands instead of sticks a lot more than most drummers I've seen, and other interesting techniques including covering the floor tom with a blanket, scraping the stick around the edge of the cymbal (a sound which brought to mind the robot uprising) and also just waving his brushes in the air during one particular solo, which raised a laugh and a cheer from the audience! On bass, of course, was Michael Janisch, both acoustic and electric. I was pleased to see the electric bass used *g*. He makes the upright bass look deceptively easy, playing fast, intricate stuff with apparently little effort. He was kind enough to let me try playing his upright bass earlier in the summer and, while I expected it to be harder than electric, I was surprised just how much physical effort was required. The muscles of my forearm hurt after just a few (really badly played) scales! So it's all the more impressive what he can play, not to mention the musicality of the solos and writing.

The music itself was varied, and very interesting. One or two I recognised from The Transatlantic Collective album, Traveling Song*, or previous gigs, but most were new. There were a few arrangements amongst the original material too, including Blood Count, a Billy Strayhorn arrangement (does that make it an arrangement of an arrangement?). It had a very creepy introduction that you wouldn't want to listen to in the dark! It was possibly my favourite of the night - I'm a fan of Strayhorn's work. Each track was interesting a varied - full of twists and turns. As is often the case with gigs like this, I had no idea what the rhythm was doing or how on earth they all know where they are and what's going on! Obviously a skill that develops with experience *g*.

Copies of the CD, Purpose Built were available for sale at the interval at after the gig. I was listening to some of it in the car to work today (not the ideal listening environment, but someone stole my car aerial on Saturday night, so the radio is a bit rough at the moment...). The CD tracks are quite different from what we heard live, particularly given the different instrumentation in some (the addition of guitar and piano for example) and a few different players as well.

Next up on the tour, following a rest day in Glasgow (how about that - the rain stopped a few days ago for the first time in literally three months) is Cardiff on Tuesday - see the website for the rest of the tour dates.

Here is a review of the first night of the tour in Fishguard, Wales, from the Jazz Mann, and here is a review of the Newcastle concert immediately prior to Glasgow, at Bebop Spoken Here (and he has pictures!). Here is a review of the album from thejazzbreakfast.


* I thought for a while they'd misspelled the album title, until I realised, "travelling" only has one "l" in American English...

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