I recently spoke with Michael Janisch, the U.S.-to-U.K. bassist making a splash on the international jazz scene, for a piece published in Bass Player magazine. Check out the story here, or read the text, below:
WISCONSIN-BRED MICHAEL JANISCH obsessed over Flea’s lines, played electric in rock bands, and earned a history degree on a football scholarship before studying jazz at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. There, he refocused on the upright, deepened his love for the playing of Paul Chambers and Ray Brown, and prepped for a period in New York. In 2007, he permanently relocated to London.
Janisch’s debut solo CD, Purpose Built, recorded in Brooklyn, is a transatlantic effort that highlights Janisch’s fleet-fingered fretboard work, and features superb performances by the likes of pianist Aaron Goldberg and drummer Johnathan Blake. The group takes on an eclectic set of challenging, inventive original compositions, and bracing arrangements of standards.
In your early years playing, who inspired you the most?
The deep feeling Ray Brown put forth when he played, and his consistent quarternote groove, are things that I still try to emulate today. In terms of tone, I’ve always been into Larry Grenadier. He was really hitting the scene ten years ago, and that huge, dark sound of his was what I wanted to get into.
What did you want to accomplish with your debut solo album?
I knew it was going to be pretty ambitious, in terms of personnel and compositions. I ended up deciding on 12 tracks, and using nine different musicians from here and the States, since I had freelanced in both countries. I wanted to present a mix of things that I’d been up to, hint of what’s to come, and showcase different kinds of compositions.
How does the London jazz scene differ from that of New York?
In America, it’s beaten into your head to learn standards. Here, they don’t teach that in schools. It’s more like you’re encouraged get your own concept together when you’re very young, instead of spending so much time on the tradition. But knowing standards really helped me when I got here, because it helped me get across in all the different cliques.
HEAR HIM ON
Michael Janisch, Purpose Built (Whirlwind, 2009]; Gary Husband’s Drive, Hotwired (Abstract Logix, 2009); TransAtlantic Collective, Traveling Song (Woodville, 2008); Paul Towndrow, Six By Six (Keywork, 2007)