Sara Schoenbeck is cast against type in the world of bassoonists. The versatile double reed, broad-ranged instrument dates to the Renaissance and is commonly found in wind ensembles and chamber orchestras. But Schoenbeck has brought her classical-leaning instrument to creative music in an electrifying body of work. Her self-titled leader debut is the first such project of her career. A series of nine duets allows Schoenbeck to fully explore the scope of the bassoon in close settings.
Sara Schoenbeck opens with an Eisenstadt duo. The unassuming "O'Saris" is textured with nuance and layers, the drums subtly washing over the melody. "Lullaby," from the Minnesota alt-rock band Low, features Nels Cline and it is a stunning piece. Cline's playing is appropriately dream-like while Schoenbeck's summons an almost human voice to accompany her haunting reading. Sara Schoenbeck wrote "Absence" in honor of her friend, the late bassoonist Marcuselle Whitfield. Mark Dresser's bowed bass adds a solemn feel to the piece but the improvisations convey a subtly festive note. The album includes several experimental improvisations such as the Matt Mitchell duet "Auger Strokes" and "Chordata" with Roscoe Mitchell. Each plays with tones, extended techniques, and spontaneous notions with unexpected decisions and directions resulting.
Listening to Sara Schoenbeck makes one consider the place of the bassoon in creative music. Her virtuosity goes a long way towards making the instrument at home wherever it goes, but the extraordinary range of the bassoon lends itself to many genres. Fortunately, Schoenbeck, like another Braxton alumnus, bassoonist Dana Jessen, has a mission to expose the instrument in unconventional settings. It is to the benefit of all who seek something different.
O’Saris (with Harris Eisenstadt); Sand Dune Trilogy (with Nicole Mitchell); Lullaby (with Nels Cline); Chordata (with Roscoe Mitchell); Auger Strokes (with Matt Mitchell); Absence (with Mark Dresser); Anaphoria (with Wayne Horvitz); Suspend A Bridge (with Peggy Lee); Sugar (with Robin Holcomb).