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Daniel Smith: Smokin' Hot Bassoon Blues

Jack Bowers By

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All those who can resist reviewing—or reading a review about—a jazz / blues quartet led by a bassoonist, please raise your hands. No one? Very well, then, let us proceed. The bassoonist in question is Daniel Smith, and while his name may be unassuming, it would be good to report that there is nothing ordinary about Smith's prowess on his chosen instrument. Alas . . .

Perhaps the choice of music is partly to blame, but whatever the reason, Smokin' Hot Bassoon Blues never really takes off, nor does Smith's unwieldy bassoon generate much heat. In fact, it is his backup crew—pianist Robert Bosscher, bassist Michael O'Brien, drummer Vincent Ector and guests Ron Jackson (guitar), Neil Clarke (percussion) and Greg Lewis (organ)—who lend the session much of its enthusiasm and energy. Props should perhaps be given for even trying to play jazz on a bassoon, but if one is to do so he should at least have something appetizing to bring to the table. Not only are Smith's jazz licks indifferent and unsteady, he seems quite often to be playing out of tune (it's hard to imagine that would be deliberate).

There are two more guests, violinist / violist Efrat Shapira and vocalist Frank Senior, who sings passably on Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" and "Hallelujah I Love Her So." Shapira takes nice solos on Phil Woods' "Eddie's Blues" and Bobby Timmons' "Moanin.'" Other numbers, almost mandatory for a blues session, include Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train," Charles Mingus' "Better Get Hit in Your Soul," Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues," Jimmy Smith's "Back at the Chicken Shack" (showcasing Lewis) and Horace Silver's "Senor Blues." Nat Adderley wrote "Hummin,'" Sonny Rollins "Blue Seven," Joe Henderson "Mamacita" (which rings down the curtain with Smith again playing befittingly off-key).

There is at least one other bassoonist who has tried his hand at playing jazz. His name is Errol Buddle, a multi-instrumentalist who was an integral part of the splendid Australian Jazz Quintet back in the '50s. Now there's a guy who could really play jazz bassoon. As far as can be determined, Buddle is still alive and going strong as he approaches his eighty-fifth birthday. A pity he couldn't have been present on Bassoon Blues, as that would have helped it live up to the name Smokin' Hot.

Track Listing: Night Train; Hummin’; Better Get Hit in Your Soul; Back at the Chicken Shack; What’d I Say; Blue Seven; Senor Blues; Hallelujah I Love Her So; C Jam Blues; Eddie’s Blues; Moanin’; Mamacita.

Personnel: Daniel Smith: bassoon; Robert Bosscher: piano; Michael O’Brien: bass; Vincent Ector: drums. Guest artists — Ron Jackson: guitar; Efrat Shapira: violin, viola; Neil Clarke: Latin percussion; Greg “Organ Monk” Lewis: jazz organ; Frank Senior: vocals.

Title: Smokin' Hot Bassoon Blues | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Summit Records

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