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Daniel Smith: Bebop Bassoon

Dan McClenaghan By

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The bassoon is rarely heard in jazz. The big, deep-toned double reed instrument is much more at home in the classical world. When encountered in a jazz setting, it's usually in larger ensemble recordings, painting dark colors in the harmonies. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter's classic Alegria (Verve, 2003) is a good example of the more common usage in the genre.

Daniel Smith's Bebop Bassoon takes the instrument into uncharted territory—out front, with a piano/bass/drums rhythm section in support, like a Dexter Gordon outing. Smith makes the horn switch on a set of classic bebop tunes from the pens of bop masters Benny Golson, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington (not quite bebop, of course), Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon.

You could say it's a way to get out of the comfort zone, but bassoonist Daniel Smith apparently isn't a "comfort zone" kind of guy. He has recorded the Complete 37 Vivaldi Concertos, a disc that was selected by the Music Industry Association as Best Concerto Recording of the Year, in addition to pushing his instrument's repertoire into ragtime, jazz and contemporary music.

Bebop Bassoon works surpisingly well, a unusual and idiosyncratic treat for the ears. Smith navigates the bassoon's rich, woody tone through saxophonist Benny Golson's slinky gem "Killer Joe," making the tune sound as if were written for the instrument. He also plays Charlie Parker's "Anthropolgy," Monk's "Blue Monk," Miles Davis' "All Blues," John Coltrane's "Up Against the Wall" and more.

You could give the disc extra credit for the novelty of the approach, but it doesn't need any. This is an excellent jazz outing—familiar territory traversed in style.


Track Listing: 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.

Title: Bebop Bassoon | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Zah Zah


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