Michael Janisch

Purpose Built

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Michael Janisch's recording debut as a leader quickly separates him from the flood of similar releases by young players for several reasons. Equally skilled on acoustic and electric bass, he is joined by a rotating supporting cast for his stimulating originals and fresh interpretations of familiar songs, while he shows surprising strength as a composer as well. His setting of "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" blends Latin influences in a very loose adaptation, with pianist Aaron Goldberg playing off of the main melody as Janisch and drummer Johnathan Blake provide invigorating accompaniment that is never predictable. Miles Davis' 1940s bop vehicle "Milestones" has a lighter tone, with guitarist Phil Robson taking the place of the piano, while the leader, alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius, and Robson shine with their respective solos. Billy Strayhorn's final work, the piercing ballad "Blood Count," proves especially haunting due to the dramatic spacious introduction that sets it up, with Goldberg's sparse, dark chords gradually working into the familiar theme, with Blake's ominous percussion gradually gaining focus as well, while Janisch plays conservatively. The leader switches to electric bass for John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice," a surprising duet with Blake, carried off with skill. Among Janisch's eight originals, several stand out. The infectious post-bop "Precisely Now" utilizes the twin tenors of Paul Booth and Walter Smith III with vibist Jim Hart joining Janisch and Blake. The intricate "Pukl-n-Pappo" is a demanding, twisting theme mastered by trumpeter Jason Palmer and guitarist Mike Moreno with Blake and the leader. The driving sextet piece "Beep" is dedicated to the composer's father, a breezy affair with invigorating solos by Cornelius, Palmer, Hart, and Smith. Michael Janisch shows a lot of promise with this solid debut effort.

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