The bassoon is a difficult instrument to navigate. Yusef Lateef, Ken McIntyre and Frankie Trumbauer are among the few who have played it, although the fit into jazz is often less than tidy. Daniel Smith has sufficient technique to give his instrument of choice an interesting enough voice.
Smith has focus and creativity, which he shows to a large extent on this recording of standards. While he entices when he swings and stokes the flames of a ballad, there are a couple of tunes that eclipse his efforts to fill them with an appealing body or soul.
The good comes first. Smith lays open "I'm Getting Sentimental over You, going into swing mode after stating the head. His tone is deep and rumbling, but he changes the register just enough to lighten the progression. Martin Bejerano (piano) adds a delectably nimble touch. He lights the song, setting in juxtaposition the dark hue of the bassoon with the bright permutation of the piano. There is an added plus in the thick bass notes of John Sullivan.
Smith shines on "Mood Indigo. He plays with becoming ease, slipping into the melody and indulging in its beauty. He chooses to improvise on the melody, and so he is never far from the core. The rhythm section of Sullivan and Ludwig Afonso (drums) is supple, with Afonso adding to the impress with his brushwork. Smith keeps the calypso pulse of "St. Thomas fertile as he sways through the melody. Bejerano takes it out of the center and fills the tune with his marvelous sense of adventure.
Smith's version of "Well You Needn't does not cut the swath. His pace is heavy and bogged down by the bop harmony. In trying to surmount the challenge, he comes up short, as he does on "Scrapple From the Apple.
Despite these drawbacks Smith delivers a tidy enough CD.