Juno-winning jazz artist Brandi Disterheft as serious as it gets

Wanna be a jazz musician, a working jazz musician? Simple. Go to New York.

It’s where the opportunities are, where the legends are, where you know that if you can make it there … well, the Chairman of the Board can fill you in on the rest of it.

Vancouver-born composer, bassist and vocalist Brandi Disterheft came from here, made it there, hell, has made it everywhere, and now she’ll return to her homeland from the Big Apple for a local show with Calgary’s fabulous The Redline Trio on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the King Eddy.

It should be a wonderful evening for #yyc jazz lovers — an opportunity to see a Juno Award-winning artist (for Traditional Jazz Album of the Year for her 2008 debut, um, Debut) in an amazing and intimate space.

This is, after all, an artist who was taken under the wing of Miles Davis’s bassist Ron Carter, worked and recorded with everyone including Cyrus Chestnut and Renee Rosnes to name a few, performed in such hallowed venues as Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Opera House, and of whom the great Oscar Peterson said, “She is what we call serious.”

Prior to her show, she spoke with theYYSCENE. Here are excerpts from that chat.

Q: It’s been a few years since your last album (2016’s Blue Canvas), is there one coming?

A: There’s one coming. We just recorded a few weeks ago, at the beginning of January, and it’s a Brazilian album featuring the great George Coleman (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, Ray Charles) on tenor saxophone.

Q: Is it all new material or is it covers?

A: No, it’s mostly my tunes and half singing, so that’s neat, with my lyrics. So it’s exciting, it’s really good. And the drummer is one of my good friends and he’s 82, and George Coleman is 83 (laughs) so it’s also very cool to get the legends passing it down. So I’m excited about that.

Q: Your career has featured a whole lot of legends passing it down and paying you the highest of compliments.

A: Yeah, thank you, so it’s nice to keep it going and that Brazilian trio we worked with, I’ve worked with since I came to New York, so when we went into the studio a lot of the takes were first takes, so that’s very cool …

In New York I have a regular Tuesday and a Thursday gig with my band, so that’s been really great to workshop all the new material. You’re playing every night as a sideman as a bass player, there’s no shortage of work, but it’s nice to be able to have your own thing and really work on it, so that’s been a blessing.

Q: When can we expect to hear the new album?

A: I’m still editing it and I have to lay down some vocals, so probably the summer. And I have to shop for a label. I may just use (Montreal-based) Justin Time again because they were so good to me (releasing her last three albums Second Side, Gratitude and Blue Canvas) …

Q: How easy was it to work your way into the New York jazz scene?

A: Well, I got that break with Vincent Herring, the great alto player in hard bop with the whole (NYC club) Smoke scene here and they have a record label (Smoke Sessions) so that was a great break. But even that took years. I was going to sessions because I didn’t go to school here — I did my undergrad at (Toronto’s) Humber College — so that took years. And finally Vincent invited me to sessions at his house, which I heard were going on, and then that took years, and finally I got the record date and then another record date (Dithert plays on Herring’s Uptown Shuffle, and Night and Day albums). It takes a, surprisingly, a long time to become friends and hang out, really. Because there are literally 100 bass players that could replace you …

And I tell you it’s a stress case on your head. You’re not wasting time: you wake up and you run and then you’re practising and then you’re writing and then you’re playing other people’s gigs. So it’s exciting but it is a lot of stress.

Q: Recording with these legends and playing with these legends, do you feel you belong?

A: I think it goes in ebbs and flows. Some days I feel very good and other days I don’t feel as good.

Q: Really?

A: Yeah, but I also I have a little bit of an ego I think down inside. (Laughs) Because I’ve been playing piano since I was little and I know how to write and I know the chords and I know harmony and I know how to get a good sound … So, I don’t know, sometimes I think deep down inside I feel very good. I don’t know. But with George Coleman, I knew him personally, so it’s almost like a friend doing you a favour. But I mean, that’s a whole different level, too, you naturally can’t compare yourself to George Coleman — he’s a, he’s a genius, right?

Q: How often do you get back up to Canada?

A: I used to get back up a lot more … I’ve got to get back up there more often. I used to be touring all the time. I’ve got to get on that.

Q: When you come up here this time, what can people expect?

A: Well, we’re going to play some hits from my albums and some material from this new album, and I’ll be singing, and then I’ll be joined by The Red Line Trio, so it’ll be cool, we’ll play some of their music, so it’s going to be a great date … I’m looking forward to it.

Brandi Disterheft performs Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the King Eddy. For tickets please click here.