Release Date: October 30, 2020
Label: Justin Time Records
Bassist-composer-singer Brandi Disterheft’s fifth album, Surfboard is her most accomplished yet. Joined by two iconic octogenarian masters — virtuoso tenor saxophonist George Coleman and the definitive Brazilian drummer Portinho — and world-class pianist Klaus Mueller, Disterheft authoritatively and organically guides the flow on a varied program that reflects her capacious interests. Her kinetic, harmonically erudite basslines anchor ensemble interpretations of choice tunes culled from the blues, mainstem jazz, and the Great Brazilian and American Songbooks. She sings those Songbook numbers, and her own evocative lyrics, with an instantly recognizable voice that conveys vulnerability and emotional intelligence. And she matches the high bar set by her partners on a series of creative solos.
The project gestated in Disterheft’s decade-long musical relationship with Portinho, whom she met through Mueller soon after she moved to New York from Canada in 2010. Their simpatico developed during years as a working band, on numerous Canadian concerts led by Disterheft and Portinho’s five-sets-a-night weekend sinecure at a Brazilian churrascaria in Manhattan.
“I wanted to record us,” she says. “Porto has a way of uplifting the beat. It’s so funky, with such an infectious groove, and he has so much dynamic range. He has strict rules, but once you learn them, he wants you to break away. He’s always anticipating, turning around the phrases. It’s so much fun.”
Coleman plays characteristically compelling solos on the standards “My Foolish Heart” and “Speak Low” and the leader’s own evocative “Coup de Foudre.” Disterheft connected with him through his lifelong friend and bandstand partner, the late pianist Harold Mabern, who — with A-list New York drummer Joe Farnsworth — partnered with her on the hard-swinging 2016, CD, Blue Canvas, and several subsequent tours. Like Portinho, she remarks, Coleman “loves to keep people on their toes,” adding, “He’ll change harmony at the drop of a hat.”
Disterheft’s harmonic erudition, soulfulness and intense individualism come through when she sings the jazz standard “Where or When” and the 60s pop hit “On Broadway.” “It depicts the reality of New York, a hard run for some folks when one thin dime won’t even shine your shoes,” she comments on the latter tune. “I related to ‘they say I won’t last too long on Broadway; I’ll catch a Greyhound bus back home.’”
The Vancouver native has first-hand experience with overnight Greyhound buses, which Disterheft frequently rode to visit New York during a long residence in Toronto, where she attended Humber College and gigged with — among other luminaries — pianist David Virelles. “It puts the gutbucket in your playing,” Disterheft says. You hear her blend down-home grit and highbrow finesse on personalized interpretations of canonic pieces by bass heroes Oscar Pettiford (“The Pendulum at Falcon’s Lair”) and Sam Jones (“Del Sasser”), and in her propulsive beat articulation on two “obscure, wonderful Brazilian tunes” that Portinho brought to her attention — Moacir Santos’ “Nanã” and the polyrhythmic “Surfboard,” a less-traveled Jobim number that titles this superb, engaging album.
“It sounds like you’re trying to balance life on a surfboard,” Disterheft says of the latter. “The audience lights up as soon as you play it.”
Release Date: November 4, 2016
Label: Justin Time Records
Canada’s prodigiously talented bassist handles her bass violin with as much visceral audacity as the great Charles Mingus once did, a fact that might raise the question of feminine power.
Recorded in the summer of 2015 in Montreal after a successful engagement at the International Montréal Jazz Festival, “Blue Canvas” is an exploration of the Divine Madness. “When I was younger, lying under my mother's piano while she transcribed Bill Evans, jazz was infinite: an endless discovery. I now reside in Harlem just blocks away from Duke Ellington's residence, and I am constantly overcome with an unsettledness to unravel a joy that is drenched in swinging jazz,” says Brandi.
On “Blue Canvas” Disterheft evokes Mabern, who at 80-years young is still tickling the ivories with soulful panache. Ever the gentlemen, he returns the favor thanks to his sensitive accompaniment to Brandi’s riveting solos, one of them a cappella “Prelude to Crippling Thrill”. On the following cut “Crippling Thrill”, and three other originals, Brandi elevates the game, singing self-penned lyrics sustaining power with elegance and ease. What's more, she marks her debut on cello in the latter piece, tipping her cap to the legendary Oscar Pettiford.
Disterheft, who is a prolific composer, specifically wrote the originals of the album with the trio in mind. Between her original pieces and jazz classics like Bobby Timmons' “Dis Here”, Tadd Dameron's “Our Delight”, and rarely heard Clifford Brown’s “George's Dilemma”, the music paints itself over a canvas of luminous colours. Mabern and Farnsworth breathe fiery dialogues into the bassist’s sinuous lines. Additional album highlights include an unusual rhapsodic treatment of Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud”, a decidedly fresh take on the standard “Willow Weep for Me”, and a fine romp over Mabern's own “Beehive”.
In her eloquent liner notes, the multi-talented musician reminds us of the Muses of Ancient Greece, as philosophized by Plato, and how these Gods would lead the artist into a state of ecstasy. Such are the feelings that lead her to reveal, “This album tells a story about that escape to freedom and the unyielding feeling of coming alive.”
Bassist-composer-singer Brandi Disterheft’s fifth album, Surfboard is her most accomplished yet. Read this announcement here.
For Blue Canvas
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"It's a work that uses various shades and hues of the titular color to form a connective design, or if you prefer, a loose theme, built with confident swinging and singing of the cool and hot varieties." Read the full review here.
HOT HOUSE JAZZ
"As a bassist, Brandi distinguishes herself with one of the most booming, resonantly full tones on the jazz scene today." Read the full review here.
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"The second vocal. This lady could make it with, or without the bass, as a singer, composer and lyricist although I hope she sticks with all her options!" Read the full review here.
"A joyful work that abounds with seductive rhythms, colorful sounds and fiery improvisations". Read full review here.
"The album has a heavy swing to it reminiscent of the Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown trios, and Disterheft’s rich bass lines and solos are equally matched by her smoky vocals". Read full review here.
JAZZ HISTORY ONLINE
"Her unaccompanied “Prelude to the Crippling Thrill” showcases her richly colored tone, and like Charles Mingus, her solos swing the band without sacrificing the sound." Read full review here.
"A modern gal that knows how to kick it old school, Disterheft continues to impress us as much as she did Oscar Peterson with her ability to swing a bass with the alacrity of Charles Mingus."
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"...but this [release] is more focused and mature, concentrating on bluesy postbop and leaving ample room for her ‘sidemen’ to shine." Full review here.
"A smart and expressive release"
"Exercising her vocaland songwriting skills (and, for the first time on record, alternating between bass and cello), the dexterous Disterheft adds extra layers of richness." Read the full review here.
"Disterheft seems content to simply share a rhythm section with these veterans, inspiring them with her ennthusiastic playing." Read the full feature here.
"The album mixes obscure standards and creative originals, uptempo swing and moody ballads, instrumental improvs and lyrical vocals that highlight Brandi’s smoky, ethereal voice." Read the full feature here.