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Brandi Disterheft Quartet brings an energetic vibe to the Fourth Stage (review)

Brandi Disterheft Quartet
Brandi Disterheft   ©Brett Delmage, 2012Saturday, April 28, 2012
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage

View photos of the show

There was lots of energy flowing both ways as bassist Brandi Disterheft and her quartet played for an enthusiastic full house at the NAC Fourth Stage on Saturday, as part of the 'NAC Presents' showcase of Canadian talent. Disterheft is from Vancouver and now living in New York City; the other musicians, all of whom had played with her for years, are currently in Toronto.

The two sets consisted of mostly originals. The quartet started off slowly: an echoing bass note, rustling cymbals, a langorous trumpet line. But they steadily increased in intensity, with a mostly up-tempo, highly rhythmic repertoire. Songs like "Pow Pow", a send-up of movie music which started with Disterheft whistling the theme, connected well with the audience, despite Disterheft not being familiar to everyone there.

Each musician had room to shine, with lots of trading off within solos. Trumpeter William Sperandei, who played with Disterheft when she appeared in Ottawa in 2010, was particularly notable on songs like "Prayer for Permission to Release the Troops" with a large dynamic and emotional range.

Guitarist Nathan Hiltz contributed bright, slinky guitar on "Charge Me" and a more exploratory mood on "Stablemates". Drummer Morgan Childs studied with Ari Hoenig in Banff in 2002, and showed some of that influence in his off-kilter rhythms, interesting atmospherics, and high energy (sometimes almost too loud for those sitting near the drumset). And Disterheft herself added intense bass intros and solos, as well as singing on some of the numbers in a fine, sweet voice. Unfortunately, her voice was not mixed high enough in some numbers. It was especially disappointing not to be able to understand "Compared to What", a track from her upcoming album, which combined a fast, syncopated beat with what appeared to be political lyrics, but they were too muffled to be fully understood.

Particularly outstanding was "Concierto De Aranjuez" in the first set. One of the most famous versions of Concierto is by Jim Hall, whose recording included bassist Ron Carter, who is Disterheft's teacher. Disterheft's version was somewhat rawer, with the melody being taken up on bowed bass as well as on trumpet and guitar, and a more punctuated style in the middle, but still preserving the beautiful melancholy of the piece.

A standing ovation ended the concert, followed by a high-octane encore: "Blues for Nelson", dedicated to Nelson Mandela, and with a strong Hank Mobley vibe.

    – Alayne McGregor

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All photos ©Brett Delmage 2012. Click on a thumbnail for a larger version.