Michael Formanek Referential Treatment

MICHAEL FORMANEK ALTERNATES between open-ended group improvisations and more structured passages on The Rub and Spare Change, his first album as a leader in 12 years.

MICHAEL FORMANEK ALTERNATES between open-ended group improvisations and more structured passages on The Rub and Spare Change, his first album as a leader in 12 years. A jazz faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Formanek has provided steady groove making and inventive soloing for a rangy mix of artists, from a teenage stint with Tony Williams Lifetime to gigs and recording sessions with the Mingus Big Band and late jazz masters Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, and Joe Henderson.

You’ve played fusion, big band, bebop, improvised music, and more. Do you feel most at home in one of those genres, or do you see it all as a continuum?

It’s a continuum. Maybe improvised music is the one for me, because I feel like I can go into any of those other zones. Some people think of improvised music as not referencing other styles or grooves, but I don’t like those kinds of limitations. I’m absolutely thrilled to go there, find a groove, and not shy away or from something because it references something else.

What’s the state of the improvised music scene?

It’s maturing in a lot of ways. Greater numbers of young musicians going to school—or otherwise getting traditional jazz educations—are looking to bring more free, non-structured improvisation into their music.

Which players have had the deepest impact on your work?

Different guys at different times—Paul Chambers, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock, Sam Jones, Oscar Pettiford, Israel Crosby, and Ron Carter. But Charles Mingus stands out just because of the breadth of his contributions. As a player and composer, I always loved the sound of his bass, the depth of his personal expression, and the way he wrote extended compositions. I’ve never been wild about his methods for dealing with people as a bandleader, but I’ve admired his attempts to get players to make the music their own and his focus on collective improvisation.

Michael Formanek, The Rub and Spare Change [ECM, 2010]

Bass u-size French Mirecourt school double bass, circa 1860
Strings Velvet Blue
Bow German-style Pfreschner bow
Rig Aguilar AG 500SC head with GS 112 cab


Michael Janisch : Scene Splitter

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.

Michael League: Top Dog with Snarky Puppy

WHETHER YOUR FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH SNARKY Puppy is via the web, disc, or live, it’s difficult not to be impressed: a dozen musicians delivering mind-opening, groove-rooted instrumental music, tastefully arranged and played, and enthusiastically communicated.

Toward Tonal Transcendence: Gary Peacock On Flying Free

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS INTO HIS COLLABORATION with pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette— digging deep into the American Songbook and finding dazzling musical insights in pop chestnuts and jazz standards— Gary Peacock still isn’t so sure the gig is permanent. “There are no guarantees in that group,” Peacock says from his home in Claryville, New York. “Every time we go to play, it feels like the first and last time. We make it so that we can be totally present with the music.”

Richie Goods: Feel Zeal

PITTSBURGH NATIVE RICHIE GOODS GOT HIS START playing gospel and driving the groove for hometown funk bands before studying upright and electric bass at Berklee. After taking lessons with jazz masters Ron Carter and Ray Brown in New York, Goods went on to work with pop divas Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera, and hip-hop heavies Common and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. On the jazz side, Richie has played with guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Mulgrew Miller. He now splits his time among performances with his band Nuclear Fusion, pianist Michael Wolff, Headhunters, the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, and drummer Lenny White. He’s one of three bassists—along with Stanley Clarke and Victor Bailey—on White’s forthcoming CD.

Michael Feinberg, Compound Interest

A PROTÉGÉ OF SUCH JAZZ STARS AS sax man George Garzone, guitarist John Scofield, and drummer Billy Drummond, 24-year-old Michael Feinberg brings hefty tone and solid time to his own sextet of talented young players on With Many Hands.

Dave Holland On Inflection And Dialogue

BORN IN ENGLAND BUT BECKONED to the U.S. by Miles Davis in the late ’60s, Dave Holland has long been a prime mover in high-end jazz, beginning with his fusion explorations on the trumpeter’s classic In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew albums and continuing through work with a long list of jazz greats, including Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Kenny Wheeler, and Herbie Hancock.