Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Michael Janisch - The Whirlwind hours

Michael Janisch - Bass and Boss
"'Tis now the very witching time of night"
the young man next to me said. I knew his face, he was not the over dramatic kind, but right now he was serious. This would be a contest, a reckoning, not physical in the pitbull kind but a battle of nerve for each performer.
In the den of the Pizza Express, Soho (08/03/2013) all the empty tables were slowly occupied by the guns-for-hire. They checked each other out with furtive glances and if they recognised each other, they acknowledged the fact in muted greetings.

The man they all wanted to impress held the microphone and introduced himself as Michael Janisch. Just like many a leader this man had charisma and that fervent edge that means he is always one step ahead of the pack. This was going to be the first night of many he explained, a chance for collaboration and expression every Friday night from 11am to 3am at Pizza Express......
and the reason why all the jazz mercenaries present wanted to be part of Janisch's gang?
In 18 months he has attracted a skilful and cutting edge group of players to his South London stable. They are creating exciting and ground breaking music that is casting waves of improvised sounds around the globe.

Phil Robson - Guitar
Musicians nervously tested the valves of their trumpets and over-worked hearts knowing if they impressed.... then Janisch's appraising eyes would be on them. The basement at Pizza Express very much resembled a western saloon too, with the late opening and free entry there were groups of inebriated hired-hands, releasing the acrid stress that comes from being under London's cosh all week. Not much drink was spilled though as the tension was lanced with the quartet's opening tune.

Zhenya Strigalev - Sax
They all looked nervous on stage. This was the start of a new era and the Whirlwind Hours were starting to tick. Only History will judge if this late night hangout will be a breeding ground for talent. The 'Man in Black' was Phil Robson, his back pressed against the piano, he had no where to run so he played for his life. Zhenya Strigalev  tilted back his head and played his saxophone like a circus performer swallowing his sword, his Lee Van Cleef eyes unnerving us as he scanned the room through those meagre slits. Gene Calderazzo was very much the urban cowboy with dark wooly and white specs on drums.

Gene Calderazzo - drums
The night developed with musicians taking their shot and having fun too. Lets not forget that the chance to play with the best is a kick of adrenaline for us all. Notable participants were Partikel's Duncan Eagles and Jeff Williams who played Monk's Rhythm a Ning and Jerome Kern's I'm old fashioned.
There's nothing old-hat about these regular Friday nights so give it a go, whether performer of listener alike.
All the details are here.
Duncan Eagles - Sax

Over the coming weeks I'll be sketching on a regular basis and busy preparing for an exhibition at Whirlwind Recordings Festival, Kings Place in October 2013. Where you will get a chance to see these paintings and the musicians performing too.

I didn't make it to the 3am close because I had a 9.5 mile walk awaiting me the next morning to help launch my second book Patternotion. I knew though that the Whirlwind hour will strike once more in Soho and that the jazzslingers will be back in town.

I'll be there when the bell tolls.


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