Brandi Disterheft: Second Side (2009)
The leap forward from Debut (Superfran Records, 2007) to Second Side is, quite literally, a significant one for Canadian-born bassist, Brandi Disterheft. Now enjoying herself immensely, the bassist appears to greet her emerging music with infinite self-assurance and unabashed style. Claiming spiritual (and therefore musical) ancestry from Charles Mingus, Disterheft plays with a rare muscularity, thrusting her bass into the spotlight and leading from the front. As a composer, she explores a myriad of metaphors and idioms as she documents her emotions in song. Her melodies and lyrics are edgy, creating spectacular whorls of moody poetry, yet she manages to eschew the trite and the florid.
Using a sinewy, evocative style of playing, Disterheft employs daring rhythmic changes with superb dynamic control. In this regard she takes a direct cue from her idol, Mingus, as she uses this device with staggering effect, especially on "Liege," which features a wonderfully undisguised rendering of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." Her solo on "Let Her Shine" possesses a raw sophistication, and flutters loudly like a palpitating heart long after the music dies, leaving behind echo of both alegria and saudades. With an ability to strongly emote, she stages masterful reflections of Milton Nascimento, who inspired her to write much of the material on the record. The odd, oblique meters employed in the mature lyrics also pay successful tribute to another ubiquitous songwriter, Joni Mitchell.
As a vocalist Brandi Disterheft appears inspired. "Combien de Chances," is somber, and the veracity of its politic is wistfully authentic. She is no less wondrous in "Twilight Curtain." The two other vocalists on the record are delightful as well. Holly Cole sounds triumphant on "He's Walkin,'" while Ranee Lee tears up the rhythm with aplomb on the classic "This Time The Dream's On Me."
Many bassists enjoy a je ne c'est quois with their drummer. Mingus did so with Dannie Richmond, Ray Brown with Ed Thigpen, and even the somber Percy Heath did so with Connie Kay. Disterheft finds similar symbiosis with Sly Juhas, who always seems to know just where the boss wants him; exactly where rapid thunder is needed and where accents would suffice. Nowhere is this telepathic relationship more evident than on "Sketches Of Belief," a deconstruction of Miles Davis virtually eponymous and legendry flamenco excursion. "My Only Friends Are The Pigeons" and "A Night In Haiti," that puckishly refracted bit of Dizzy Gillespie, also showcase the Disterheft/Juhas unit.
Despite being more adventurous than Debut, Disterheft continues to reference the blues with deep conviction. Using contemporary interpretations of that idiomatic platform, the bassist/composer has succeeded in creating truly ebullient, elastic and ever-evolving compositions, as she plucks her way forward. The result is a record that is delightfully unexpected in content and near-flawless in performance.
Track Listing: Sketches of Belief; Combien de Chances; Second Dawn; Twilight Curtain; My Only Friends Are The Pigeons; He's Walkin'; Dawn; Liege; A Night in Haiti; Let Her Shine; This Time The Dream's On Me.
Personnel: Brandi Disterheft: acoustic bass, bass sample (3), kalimba, vocals (2, 4), whistling (6); Sly Juhas: drums (1-6, 8-11); Daniel Stone: percussion (2, 4, 6); Chris Gale: tenor saxophone (1, 4, 5, 11); Shawn Nyquist: alto saxophone (4, 5, 11); William Sperandel: trumpet (1, 2, 11); Jason Logue: trumpet (1, 11); William Carn: trombone (11); "Champagne" James Robertson: guitar (2-4, 6, 7); Stacie McGregor: piano (8--11), Farfisa Organ (2), Rhodes (3, 4, 7); Holly Cole: vocals (6); Ranee Lee: vocals (11), Superfran Records Choir (10); Rhys Fulber: bass sample (3).