The unique sound of a bassoon brings a considerable amount of restraint to jazz. By its nature, the centuries-old instrument provides a suitable avenue for channeling cool, laid-back ventures; classical music has long depicted its gentle spirit with subtlety. Bassoonist Daniel Smith swings with hearty passion on this recording, alongside an acoustic piano trio that does a terrific job setting up standard jazz pieces such as "Sister Sadie," "Birks Works," "All Blues" and "Doxy." His virtuosity and the quartet's swinging approach provide an interesting outlook for jazz.
Ballads and blues work best for this sensitive artist and his deep-throated, double-reed instrument. As the spotlight turns in his direction for extended periods, however, the inherent weaknesses of the instrument take shape behind the scenes. Intonation problems arise from Smith's solo bassoon voice on Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," and his articulation becomes muddy on Charlie Parker's "Anthropology."
The best pieces are the quartet's shared swingers, which fold in all four voices equally with a heartfelt spirit. "Killer Joe" drives with direct strength and allows all the artists to shine brightly. "Blue Monk" sparkles with an easygoing ramble. John Coltrane's "Up Against the Wall," taken at a moderate tempo, allows Smith to exhibit the agility that he's proven on this instrument. Unusual for jazz but swinging nevertheless, Smith's bassoon delivers straight-ahead anthems with distinction.
Personnel: Daniel Smith: bassoon; Martin Bejerano: piano; John Sullivan: bass; Ludwig Afonso: drums.