Richard Whiteman’s career as an upright bass player began virtually by coincidence.
About 10 years ago, as leader of a highly regarded piano trio, he was doing a photo shoot with Juno-winning vocalist, composer, and bassist Brandi Disterheft.
“I was holding Brandi’s bass while she was adjusting her hair or something, and I thought, ‘This is cool’. Just the feel of the bass,” he says.
“I always liked the instrument, so I went out and bought one, mainly on a whim.”
Having played piano with “all the fine bass players in Toronto”, Whiteman says he knew how the instrument was supposed to sound. He decided to take lessons from a classical teacher.
“So I worked at it, and it started to sound respectable,” he says.
Judging merely by the company he keeps, the word “respectable” may be a major understatement.
When Whiteman makes his first foray to the Yukon this weekend for a Jazz on the Wing concert at the Yukon Arts Centre on October 19, he’ll be travelling with three accomplished musicians who have all played here before.
In addition to the group’s leader, the Richard Whiteman Quartet consists of guitarist Reg Schwager, pianist Amanda Tosoff, and drummer Morgan Childs. They’re the same personnel who appeared on the 2012 album, On Course.
A longtime fixture on the Toronto jazz scene, Schwager has won Guitarist of the Year honours at the Canadian National Jazz Awards four times. He has played with such luminaries as George Shearing, Peter Appleyard, Rob McConnell, and Diana Krall.
When Schwager moved to Toronto from Sudbury as a teenager, “He was already playing at a professional level and playing with the best people in town,” Whiteman says. “He’s a master musician. One of the best musicians I know personally.”
Whiteman first encountered Tosoff when she was still a student in Vancouver a decade ago, but didn’t hear her play until a few years later.
“She sounded great, with great musical values. She can swing, she’s very musical, everything’s well thought-out. She knows what she’s doing on the instrument, and she’s got a great spirit,” Whiteman says.
“When she moved to Toronto, it kind of coincided with the time that I was about to embark on my career as a bass-playing bandleader, so she was my first choice.”
A bandleader in her own right, Tosoff has three CDs to her credit and an impressive list of festival appearances.
By another coincidence, the same night Disterheft introduced Whiteman to Tosoff, he also met his future drummer, Childs.
“He’s a bandleader on his own. He’s made a recording, and he’s played in tons of bands,” Whiteman says.
“He can play mellow, and he can play with great fire. I think the stereotypes about drummers, although they’re amusing, don’t apply to him.”
The Jazz on the Wing bill of fare will include “a good mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar,” Whiteman says.
“I’m not going to tell you what songs we’re going to play, but I can tell you there’s going to be some blues, there’s going to be some swinging material, there’s going to be some slow ballad material, there’s going to be some Latin grooves,” he adds.
Because airline baggage regulations pretty much rule out travelling with his own upright bass, Whiteman will be using a borrowed instrument, not the one he bought on a whim 10 years ago.
“Depending on how I adapt to the bass provided for me, there should be a couple of bass solos,” he hints. “But not too many.”
The Richard Whiteman Quartet will perform at the Yukon Arts Centre on Sunday, October 19, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, check www.jazzyukon.ca.