Jazz Bassoon: Wayne Horvitz, Marcin & Bartlomiej Oles and Daniel Smith

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Wayne Horvitz
Way Out East

Oles Brothers
Chamber Quintet
Fenom Media

Daniel Smith
Bebop Bassoon

Despite the common thread of the bassoon, few comparisons can be made between these three albums. That being said, the fact that three distinct albums featuring such an obscure jazz instrument could be released at the same time, speaks to the diversity of today's music scene.

Seattle resident Wayne Horvitz' latest endeavor, a quartet featuring him on piano, Peggy Lee on cello, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon and Denver trumpeter Ron Miles, finds the four musicians embarking on a series of Horvitz originals that shift between chamber jazz, free improvisation and electronic trance. Pieces like "LB and "Way Out East quietly insinuate themselves into the ear through careful repetition and by their sheer beauty. Horvitz' lithe piano leads the way through each delicately crafted arrangement, contributing pristine solos as well as a pliant rhythmic backing for the drummer-less ensemble.

After the acoustic serenity of the first tracks, the sharp dissonances that follow seem a far departure, but Horvitz' compositional intent is always clear. His sustained electric drones blend with Miles' trumpet effects and the woody contralto of Schoenbeck's bassoon to create a sound not of this world. He also shows restraint with his pared down arrangements and ample solo room. Horvitz is smart enough as a composer to allow each voice to stand on its own.

In a similar, if less successful vein, is Chamber Quintet, a classically inspired outing lead by Polish brothers Marcin and Bartlomiej Brat Oles. Featuring Dutch multi-reedist Emmanuelle Somer, bassoonist Michael Rabinowitz and cellist Erik Friedlander, the album is a motley assortment of styles - jazz, classical and hard rock - that results in a work impressive in its spontaneity and disappointing in its compositional shortcomings. Granted, the solos are solid but the compositions don't unfold organically. "Eternity , "Rien que nous deux... and "Desert Walk redeem Chamber Quintet somewhat with their ghostly beauty and masterful solos but in the end, one is left with a bitter taste from this compositional "grab bag .

As the most recorded bassoon soloist ever to play the challenging double reed, it was only a matter of time, it seems, before Daniel Smith ventured out of the classic bassoon repertoire. On Bebop Bassoon, the veteran instrumentalist interprets ten standards from the jazz canon, making the familiar tunes surprisingly fresh with his woody, resonant renditions.

For all his virtuosity however, Smith does seem out of his element at times. Both on disc and especially live at Saint Peter's last month, his tendency is to speed up on tricky melodic passages, occasionally get lost in the forms and fall back on preconceived solo ideas. Despite stellar support from his rhythm sections, notably pianist Martin Bejerano and bassist John Sullivan on the album and the legendary Don Friedman live, Smith often plays as if accompanied by an Abersold record. That said, Bebop Bassoon is an admirable project from an obvious jazz lover that will hopefully lead to greater acceptance of the bassoon as a serious jazz instrument.

Tracks and Personnel

Way Out East

Tracks: LB; Way Out East; a remembrance...an afterthought...what could have been a waltz; Between Here And Heaven; Berlin 1914; Ladies And Gentlemen; Reveille; You Were Just Here; Our Brief Duet; One Morten; World Peace And Quiet.

Personnel: Wayne Horvitz: piano & electronics; Peggy Lee: cello; Ron Miles: trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon.

Chamber Quintet

Tracks: Abyss; Galileo; Eternity; Enigma; Rien que nous deux..; Reflection; Horror Vacui; Phoenix; Desert Walk; Nostalgia; Source.

Personnel: Marcin Oles: bass; Bartlomiej Brat Oles: drums; Emmanuelle Somer: oboe, english horn; Michael Rabinowitz: bassoon; Erik Friedlander: cello.

Bebop Bassoon

Tracks: Killer Joe; Anthropology; Blue Monk; Sister Sadie; In A Sentimental Mood; All Blues; Doxy; Up Against The Wall; Birk's Works; Sticky Wicket.

Personnel: Daniel Smith: bassoon; Martin Bejerano: piano; John Sullivan: bass; Ludwig Afonso: drums.

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