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.
In your early years playing, who inspired you the most?
The deep feeling Ray Brown put forth when he played, and his consistent quarternote groove, are things that I still try to emulate today. In terms of tone, I’ve always been into Larry Grenadier. He was really hitting the scene ten years ago, and that huge, dark sound of his was what I wanted to get into.
What did you want to accomplish with your debut solo album?
I knew it was going to be pretty ambitious, in terms of personnel and compositions. I ended up deciding on 12 tracks, and using nine different musicians from here and the States, since I had freelanced in both countries. I wanted to present a mix of things that I’d been up to, hint of what’s to come, and showcase different kinds of compositions.
How does the London jazz scene differ from that of New York?M
In America, it’s beaten into your head to learn standards. Here, they don’t teach that in schools. It’s more like you’re encouraged get your own concept together when you’re very young, instead of spending so much time on the tradition. But knowing standards really helped me when I got here, because it helped me get across in all the different cliques.
William “Mo” West, 1954-2010
WILLIAM MORRIS WEST III, a lifelong innovator in musical engineering who was known to a wide circle of Nashville and music industry pros simply as “Mo,” died of complications from heart surgery and strokes on January 3, 2010 at the age of 56.
Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Mo was seemingly born to make musicians sound better. With an engineer as his father and country music legend Dottie West as his mother, Mo began playing guitar at age 8 and started a band just two years later. Though he went on to play professionally, his love of music ultimately drove a self-taught passion for designing customized tone circuits and preamps for discriminating professional musicians. His custom headphone amps (like the Mo’ Me), preamps, and effects pedals were in high demand in the Nashville studio scene throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and session players would often wait months for a custom “Mo” product.
In early 2000, West would go on to design and attach his namesake to an innovative bass head, the SWR Mo’ Bass. West’s concepts of integrated tone-shaping and onboard effect circuitry—overdrive, octave, synth, band-pass EQ and chorus—were a harbinger of the guitarist- sized pedalboards many bassists employ today as a stock part of their sonic arsenal. A restless inventor, Mo’s workbench was always stacked with myriad projects in various states of development, and he was working on creating new circuitry for bass and guitar right up to the day he went in for surgery. West is survived by his wife of 27 years, Jan; his stepson Aaron Cates; his daughter May; and his sons Cody and Skye.
HEAR HIM ON
Michael Janisch, Purpose Built [Whirlwind, 2009]; Gary Husband’s Drive, Hotwired [Abstract Logix, 2009]; TransAtlantic Collective, Traveling Song [Woodville, 2008]; Paul Towndrow, Six By Six (Keywork, 2007)
Basses 1994 Christopher upright with D’Addario Helicore hybrid mediums and Fishman Full Circle pickup; Fender Jazz Bass
Rig Ashdown Electric Blue 180 combo
Bow German style