Michael Janisch ‘Paradigm Shift’ 2CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 3/5

michael-janischUS bassist, composer and label founder Michael Janisch is a man of many talents and on this latest endeavour is surrounded by a fine cosmopolitan band, mainly in quintet format, with American trumpeter Jason Palmer and Argentine keyboardist Leonardo Genovese particularly impressive throughout. This album has been four years in the making and is the follow to his 2010 offering, ‘Purpose Built’. The music, spread over two CDs, is dense and combines post-bop with a strong nod to the more creative side of fusion. At the epicentre is a four-piece movement with the first movement noticeable for the use of repeated el piano vamps and some hard-hitting trumpet that recalls the young Freddie Hubbard and overall comes across as similar in tone and multi-layering to Miles’ ‘Bitches Brew’ era, a likely major influence for the band’s sound. Part two features a quirky melody that, though not immediate, grows with repeated listens and trumpet, tenor saxophone and organ performs in tandem. Tenorist and multi-reedist Paul Booth engage in some freer playing with a gentle nod to mid-1960s Wayne Shorter. On the fast-paced third movement, the early feel of Ornette Coleman’s pre-Atlantic period is discernible. This writer preferred the fourth part where the perpetual drumbeat is maintained over some lovely bass riffs from the leader and flamenco-style hand claps hint at world roots influences, an aspect that could be developed over future recordings. Perhaps in places there is simply too much going on, a few pieces are overly long and could be shortened, and it would enhance the listener’s enjoyment to have the essence of the band distilled down into a more cohesive and manageable whole. On the plus side, however, there are plenty of inventive ideas circulating within the band and once those are coherently expressed, this band is likely to make rapid progress. On ‘Chacaraca’ Genovese is finally heard on acoustic piano and has the opportunity to solo at length while Palmer, who has been seemingly schooled in the Blue Note of hard-bop with Lee Morgan another potential influence, lays down a gorgeous clarity of tone when soloing. Of technical interest is the overdubbing of electric bass (Pat Metheny has actually on the tribute album to Eberhard Weber – review imminent in this column) with post-recording studio enhancement and the electro-acoustic balance is one dimension the band may branch into in greater depth in the future. An extensive UK tour with a slightly amended line-up started in early September and goes all the way through to 10 December with a final date in Manchester at Band on the Wall. Inhabitants of the Shetland Islands will be pleased to know that there are no less than three dates there.

Tim Stenhouse