IT SEEMS entirely appropriate that the name Michael Janisch chose for the record label he founded in 2010 should be Whirlwind Recordings. The London-based, Wisconsin-born musician and entrepreneur exudes energy. Ask Janisch a question and he takes off like a running back, the position he held in his college football team until a serious injury ended his hopes of turning professional.

American football and American music, specifically jazz, were twin interests of his from around the age of four. The family ran one of the largest dairy farms in the county and as with Janisch’s precursor and fellow bassist Charlie Haden’s family, they had a band that offered respite after long days in the fields.

“I actually hated farming but there was no alternative – we had to work,” says Janisch, whose close relationships with a number of Scottish musicians have led to him being a regular visitor to Scotland since soon after he arrived in London some 15 years ago.

The Janisches prided themselves in being one of the few farming families in the area to survive the Great Depression. So a work ethic was instilled in Michael and his younger brother, who sadly died in a farming accident while still at school.

Losing his brother may have contributed to Michael becoming super-competitive at sports. He captained his school team in track and field as well as football, where he put everything he had into becoming “the fast guy”, as the running back is known. Three or four players every year went into professional football from Janisch’s school and he had good reason to believe he would too. So, the day three hundred and twenty-five pounds of attacking footballer landed,

with his knee leading, on Janisch’s hamstring brought more than agonising pain.

“He basically split my hamstring,” says Janish. “That needed reconstructive surgery. I had a bruise from my ankle to my shoulder and had to use crutches for a couple of months. Then the coach, and these guys were ruthless, told me they were pulling my scholarship because I would never regain my speed. He said I could stay with the team and train because they liked my attitude but I wouldn’t be getting a game.”

With typical fortitude Janisch sees humour in the next chapter. He was wandering around the college campus feeling sorry for himself when he heard a drummer practising in the fine arts building. So, still dressed in his football gear, sofa-like shoulder pads and all, he went into the room to introduce himself.

“This guy, his name was Will and we haven’t seen each other since college, looked up as if he thought I was going to beat him up for making a racket,” says Janisch. “I told him I played bass and he asked if I wanted to jam. I hadn’t actually touched my bass for two and half years because I’d been concentrating on sport, and it was back home, three hours’ drive away. So I got in my car and went to get it, and we had great fun.”

Having been forced to switch subjects midstream, Janisch graduated with a history degree and then made what he describes as a surreal transition from a top sports college to one of the US’s leading music schools, Berklee, in Boston.

“By the time I went there I was a bit older than the other first year students,” he says. “I was also a bit wilder and started hanging out with the British and European students, who were up for a party. The studies were quite intense but I’d spent three months in an attic, practising like mad to get my chops up, so I was able to deal with whatever they threw at me as far as double bass performance was concerned.”

The business studies aspect of his Berklee course and the contacts he made there have come in especially useful with the Whirlwind label.

“Saxophone players Patrick Cornelius and Walt Smith were contemporaries of mine and are both now on Whirlwind, and Esperanza Spalding, the great bass player and singer, was in my year too,” he says.

Janisch also met his wife, Sarah, while he was at Berklee and after he moved to London to be with her, and having served some time in pop bands, he began to make connections in the UK.

“I started by looking at Jazz Magazine in London, which was a printed news sheet at the time, and thinking, Who are all these people?” He laughs at his own naivete but in his defence the American jazz scene was very America-centred when he was coming up, and magazines like DownBeat had little interest in Europe other than reporting on American musicians like Dexter Gordon settling in Copenhagen.

“It’s different now but I started checking out these names to see if any of them went to Berklee and it was Oli Rockberger, a singer who lived in New York for a long time, who recommended a Scottish saxophonist, Paul Towndrow.”

Towndrow, now a mainstay of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and a

respected composer and bandleader in his own right, had been to Berklee, although Janisch doesn’t think they met then. He offered Janisch a gig with his quartet and for £80 Janisch drove to Glasgow and was introduced to other Scots, including drummer Alyn Cosker.

“Paul was inspirational,” says Janisch. “He was the first guy I met who was organising tours to promote his self-released albums. I learned loads from him.”

The Scottish connection continued when Janisch set up Whirlwind Recordings. Players including piano-saxophone partnership Euan Stevenson and Konrad Wiszniewski, with New Focus, trumpeter Ryan Quigley, saxophonist Rachael Cohen and pianist Steve Hamilton have recorded for the label.

Whirlwind now has a catalogue that is several dozen strong and among its latest releases is the album that brings Janisch back to Scotland for gigs in Edinburgh and Glasgow this month, Worlds Collide.

Recorded with an international band featuring Pakistan-born guitarist Rez Abassi alongside Americans, saxophonist John O'Gallagher, trumpeter Jason Palmer, and drummer Clarence Penn, and London saxophonist George Crowley, Worlds Collide reflects the variety of styles at play in the music, from rock-driven grooves to freewheeling improvisation and from urgent break beats to more reflective melodies.

The title also reflects the way things are in the world right now, with the toxic nature of social media exchanges and tribal behaviour that refuses to see the other side’s point of view.

“The starting place was the music and it was Clarence [Penn] who said that all the different influences in the music were like worlds colliding,” says Janisch. “But it’s such an apt title for what’s happening, not just in terms of party politics but ecologically. We seem to be reaching a breaking point and I wanted to show in music how people from different cultures can live in harmony.”

The group Janisch brings north will be largely different from the album’s personnel – saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, Rick Simpson (keys) and Shaney Forbes (drums) join Janisch and Crowley – and it marks the first time Janisch has led a fully UK-based band.

“These guys are all world class,” he says, “and I’m really excited to have a band of great friends who will develop the music from the album as we tour.”

Worlds Collide is released by Whirlwind Recordings on September 6. The

Michael Janisch Quintet plays the Blue Arrow, Glasgow on Tuesday,

September 24 and The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh on Wednesday, September 25.