Friday, November 13, 2009

Jazz Bassoon? Daniel Smith Plays the Blues!

When I think of the bassoon I alternately think of the lighthearted or macabre passages written for it in the orchestral repertory--Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Dukas' Sorcerers Apprentice, the theme song from the Alfred Hitchcock show (now what classical piece was that? Something by Gounod, right?)

Jazz bassoonists are as rare as the fish attracted by my lures when I went fishing as a kid. I just can't think of any at the moment. Except Daniel Smith, who has a CD coming out this January. It's Daniel with a cooking quartet and sometimes quintet, playing the blues. Blue Bassoon (Summit) is the sort of oddity that also happens to be a substantial musical experience.

Mr. Smith really can play. He digs into some classic jazz-blues numbers with spirit and soul. Mingus, Cannonball, Horace Silver, Trane, BB King, Robert Johnson, Wayne Shorter are all represented by some classic numbers and Smith and company pull it off with style and sweat in equal proportion. Young pianist Martin Bejerano sounds very good and everybody swings.

A blues-bop bassoon in the hands of most would turn out to be a lumbering affair. Not so with Daniel Smith. The sound has weight, as you'd expect from the instrument, but it has a fleet gait too.

Blue Bassoon is a bit of a hoot and a half. It covers classic material with real charm. It's a treat!

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