Brandi Disterheft trio with George Coleman, Surfboard, Justin Time

No newcomer double bassist and jazz singer Brandi Disterheft has long since got into her stride. She might make a few reviewer headlines again. If you haven't heard of her so far discovering a certain uniqueness is part of the pleasure derived here …

Published: 28 Nov 2020. Updated: 8 months.

No newcomer double bassist and jazz singer Brandi Disterheft has long since got into her stride. She might make a few reviewer headlines again. If you haven't heard of her so far discovering a certain uniqueness is part of the pleasure derived here in the listening. Making news however is nothing novel to George Coleman who features on this appealing highly accessible and well programmed album of evergreens. He has been doing it for decades to a greater or lesser extent. Mostly greater. The iconic tenor saxophonist famed for his work particularly with Miles Davis including on classics Seven Steps to Heaven and My Funny Valentine and with Herbie Hancock, the sublime Maiden Voyage, is a thrill on 'My Foolish Heart.'

When standards work best they have that uncanny ability to tap deep into the very essence of a jazz mood, beyond the music itself somehow, far into a dream, and somehow you forget yourself lost in the song and sail away somewhere new beyond your own experience.

Sometimes you hear a standard with new ears the more you come across it even if it is a subtle tweak here and there, a shift in emphasis, a deeper understanding of the words perhaps, and certainly hearing Victor Young and Ned Washington's ‘My Foolish Heart’ sung in recent years in a marvellous live version by Ian Shaw has made us approach the song with new ears. A song that dates back to the late-1940s and to a long forgotten fairly soppy film of the same name adapted from a JD Salinger short story first published in The New Yorker, Martha Mears sang the title track in the very conventional manner of films of the time.

The mood of the song is night time mournful and melancholic, the lyrics begin to explore a sense of reverie, a fear of embarking on a love affair because of past bad experiences, the ever popular moon and the night itself almost advisers to the wary protagonist who muses, in the best line of the whole song “There’s a line between love and fascination” that hovers between the thought of the intended kiss and the consequences of a full blown passion.

Like many of the best Great American Songbook songs the piece works equally well as a vocal or an instrumental.

A 1990s version by the Ray Brown trio is strong on subtlety and possesses a sensuous Gene Harris piano line and deftly unfurling bass figure, Jeff Hamilton’s brush strokes invoking a steely sense of calm.

Much further back to the 1960s there is a glorious stillness to this Johnny Smith guitar treatment and a stately patience too delivered by his bandmates bassist George Duvivier, pianist Hank Jones and drummer Don Lamond. The song opens up more fully harmonically, blessed with a pristine clarity to it, than on any of these instrumental versions.

Many people’s favourite, going further back to the beginning of the 1960s, is Bill Evans’ poetic take on the song from A Waltz For Debby, which was recorded live at the Village Vanguard club in New York in 1961, the pianist in trio mode performing with the ill-fated bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.

As for vocals and silky croon, maybe not everyone’s taste, yet the version of the song on Tony Bennett’s Long Ago and Far Away is a schmaltzy must, the song by this stage in the jazz repertoire for less than a decade.

Billy Eckstine’s wonderful version, mannerisms and all from 1950 again like the Bennett this might be a marmite choice as styles and tastes have long since changed but well worth your patience nonetheless to draw out the essential artistry contained within the interpretation. Take yourself back.

Surfboard is the sort of jazz album that speaks of a music of survival, the survival essentially of supreme musicianship that does not skimp or sell out, a feeling, a music that is not about the ephemeral, not about gimmicks, but about good songs, lyrics from some of the masters and more interpreted with taste and skill spanning the generations. An intergenerational album in Brandi's trio are the drummer Portinho (known for his immaculate feel and sense of flow on the wondrous 1980s Tania Maria album Come with Me) and pianist Klaus Mueller who makes a telling introduction on 'My Foolish Heart'. Go to 'One Dream' started by the leader in a solo bass spot first up to hear how fine her chops are and the quality of the sonics and then take a deep dive into the rest of the tracks if you are hard to please and need to get your ears together first. Her vocals once emerged are understated. A singer who can downplay rather than indulge in a smug game of charm-offending is more than all right. You came for the softness, you stayed for all of the above. But leave the best, 'My Foolish Heart', to last. Out now.

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Top in 20 single instrumental grooving: Harlem to Haarlem, Gary Bartz and Maisha, Night Dreamer

Best and top single instrumental track of 2020, grooving: the head bobbing 'Harlem to Haarlem' by Gary Bartz and Maisha and released by Night Dreamer. Also overall on the album from which it is drawn Night Dreamer Direct​-​To​-​Disc Sessions for …

Published: 27 Nov 2020. Updated: 12 months.

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Best and top single instrumental track of 2020, grooving: the head bobbing 'Harlem to Haarlem' by Gary Bartz and Maisha and released by Night Dreamer. Also overall on the album from which it is drawn Night Dreamer Direct​-​To​-​Disc Sessions for best and top drummer-led album, Jake Long. Big up. So compulsive and full of feeling. Pic: Night Dreamer

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