Starting about fifteen years ago the jazz community felt a resurgence of retrospective reflection on the jazz of the 60’s and the years leading up to that era of jazz expressionism. Perhaps the fervent attraction comes from the way the musicians expressed strong emotions and feeling, expressing their views and experiences of the world in which they lived, and their push to explore new forms of music (jazz).
Daniel Smith has been a part of this retrospective movement, with obvious study of the swing and be-bop era, and Smith is fluent in the language of that time. However, Smith is still pushing the boundaries today by his instrument choice- the bassoon! Granted this is not as boundary breaking as Miles’s Kind of Blue, but it does expand the roster of jazz instruments.
The fist question in the readers mind is probably; "What does jazz bassoon sound like?" The simplest answer; like a reed trombone. The sonic quality is rich and similar in range and shape as the trombone, but with a fuzzier reed sound and much more agility (similar to that of a saxophone).
Smith’s new release entitled Bebop Bassoon is a collection of ten well known standards that are designed to showcase Smith’s ability on the bassoon. As the most recorded bassoon soloist in the world, Smith’s repertoire ranges from Baroque concerti to contemporary music including jazz, ragtime and crossover. Presently Smith is the only bassoonist performing and recording in both the jazz and classical fields. Playing both worlds is a very challenging thing to do, and has only be successfully accomplished by a select few musicians- Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and Eddie Danniels might come to mind the quickest.
Smith’s interpretation of Ellington’s beautiful ballad, "In a Sentimental Mood," really lets the listener hear the sound of the bassoon and enjoy the wonderful colors and moods the instrument gives forth, that until now have been savored primarily in a symphonic setting. Pianist Martin Bejerano uses the hauntingly beautiful countermelody that Duke used with Coltrane, giving a nice addition to overall texture of the track
"Sister Sadie" is another highlight with Smith displaying the ability and agility of the bassoon with a nice solo over a swinging groove provided by bassist John Sullivan and Ludwig Afonso on drums. The arrangement is also worth mentioning, with an obvious nod to the great Gil Evans.
Bebop Bassoon expresses strong emotions and feeling, Smith and his cohorts seem to feel the urgency to express their views and experiences of the world in which they live, and Smith is pushing to expand the horizon of what is considered a legit jazz instrument. That said, Bebop Bassoon is a welcome addition to the saga of jazz and any CD collection.