Michael Janisch’s Purpose Built quartet, Future Inns Jazz Club, Dec 12

The excellent Jazz Breakfast has a nice review of the immediately preceding gig of the tour here, so no need to add much. We heard Jim Hart, as billed, instead of Ivo Neame, and he played superbly throughout – two vibes players in three days was quite a treat. His main feature was a standard, Love is A Many Splendoured Thing, and he gave it a fine workout. I was struck by the role of the few carefully chosen standards in this programme. The fine set a few days before from Trish Clowes at the Bear was another version of state of the art contenporary small group jazz, and was all her own work, compositionally. Janisch, who is in some ways more traditional, certainly more bop-oriented, leavened his own excellent tunes with a few older ones. That works well, I think, when they are treated thoughtfully as here. It is a way of acknowledging roots, and also – perhaps – seeing how the new work stands up against the best of the past.

That’s not to say that Clowes’ work wouldn’t stand up well but a few standards bring in another dimension, especially here in an extended treatment of Strayhorn’s threnody for himself Blood Count. Played as the pre-encore closer in the second set, it was the evening’s highlight for me. It is most often heard as a brooding lament – check Joe Henderson’s treatment, for example. But Janisch’s arrangement was more elaborate, and covered a range of moods – excellent contributions from the beautifully understated Jay Phelps on muted trumpet. What a superb player he is.

Another brilliant evening at the Future Inn, which is ever more the Ronnie Scott’s of the South West. Janisch is back there in the New Year as part of Phil Robson’s new supergroup with Mark Turner. And James Gardiner-Bateman appears this Sunday with his excellent quartet, but not before popping up in several other places around town including as part of the star-studded Resonation Big Band at St George’s tonight (Dec 16). Quite a rush of music this end of the year…

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