Brandi Disterheft’s Blue Canvas might simply have been an extraordinarily coalescent trio album. The Canadian-born, Harlem-based bassist is in stellar company, teaming with pianist Harold Mabern and drummer Joe Farnsworth for a studio session that followed their performance at the 2015 Montreal International Jazz Festival. Six of the 10 tracks focus squarely on the tight brilliance of their union. Together they travel from a rousingly jaunty “Dis Here” through a double-dip into the Clifford Brown songbook—a slinky, noirish “Daahoud” and a breezily potent “George’s Dilemma”—and on to a mellow “Willow Weep for Me.” Along the way, Farnsworth skillfully steers the buzzy whirlwind of Mabern’s “Beehive,” while Tadd Dameron’s “Our Delight” swings brightly.
But that’s only part of the story. Exercising her vocal and songwriting skills (and, for the first time on record, alternating between bass and cello), the dexterous Disterheft adds extra layers of richness. Three original compositions, two featuring her delicate yet pliant voice, include the carefree title track and “When the Mood Is Right,” a ruminative waltz for cello. But the centerpiece is her two-part “Crippling Thrill.” Disterheft sets the scene with a solo bass “Prelude,” two minutes of introspective anticipation. The lyric’s hungry passion then unfolds, propelled by a quickening heartbeat shaped by Mabern and Farnsworth, the trio ultimately climbing beyond words to a rapturous climax.