CD review: Aruan Ortiz & Michael Janisch Quintet

Banned In London
(Whirlwind Recordings)

This live recording from last year’s London Jazz Festival gig at the Pizza Express opens with Janisch’s bass and in his hands alone there is that thoroughly modern yet absolutely classic meeting of spontaneous melody and rhythm that is the intoxicating essence of jazz.

The rest of the band kicks in – fellow leader Ortiz on piano, Rudy Royston on drums, Greg Osby on alto and Raynald Colom on trumpet – and Janisch’s perfectly-titled Precisely Now becomes a 14-minute rollercoaster ride with Royston and Colom in explosive mood and Osby in a gentler though equally intense place.

In fact this is a hallmark of the CD as a whole – the energy levels of a Janisch band are always that little bit higher, the players pushed to play intensely. If you’re on the front row in the club it might feel a bit like a physical assault, albeit an incredibly eloquent one.

Jitterbug Waltz features some great long-distance playing from Osby, while Ortiz’s Orbiting gives him a chance to stretch out with his big, open-handed Cuban angle on the music. Monk’s Ask Me Now and another Ortiz original complete the programme.

Overall the album has the magical feel of a quickly assembled all-star Blue Note session from the 1960s, except that the harmonies and rhythms are more contemporary and the atmosphere is club-steamy.

This very band is playing in Birmingham on Sunday evening. Find out more about the gig here. And read an extended interview with Michael Janisch, about this project and a whole lot more here.

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3 replies

  1. The Janisch/ Ortiz Quintet played the Hare and Hounds last Sunday. The line up of this Nu Century Arts promoted gig comprised of talented Cuban pianist Aruan Ortiz, US alto sax heavyweight Greg Osby, sought after Spanish trumpeter Raynald Colom, record label owner Michael Janisch on bass and genre hopping Rudy Royston handling the sticks. The rhythm section reminded me of 60s powerhouse duo of Tony Williams and Ron Carter. Royston was endlessly creative moving from minimal rhythms to full power effortlessly with and driving force. Janisch was buzzing with energy and passion. The modal-like Precisely Now, Janisch announced, was a tribute to Dave Holland, allegedly from Wolverhampton. The set included two originals by Ortiz, Monk’s Ask Me Now and Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz. Pianist Ortiz and Janisch’s mutual delight was obvious. Soweto Kinch also took the stage for the encore.
    This tour was to promote their new live CD Banned in London. The audience numbered little more than 15 people, which must have been a big disappointment to the band who, only days before, played a sold out gig at the London Jazz Festival. I have seen Jay Phelps and New York Standards Quartet at the Hare and Hounds on a Sunday night and both had a similar poor attendance. It’s a great shame so many missed a great night of world class jazz in Birmingham. I don’t know why people promoting in the second city can’t work together and to ensure there are not several gigs on one night then nothing for days. Perhaps promoters could publicise their gigs a little more and let a few more people in on the secret!

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