Daniel Smith

Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz

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Daniel Smith may not be the first bassoonist to take part in a jazz record date, but he has been at the forefront of using the instrument in the front line rather than merely providing background color. His fourth CD leading a jazz band focuses on Latin jazz, blending works by artists from both North and South America, with a potent supporting band including pianist Daniel Kelly, bassist Michael O'Brien, drummer Vincent Ector, and the versatile percussionist Neil Clarke (known especially for his long association with pianist Randy Weston). The fun begins with a lively take of bopper Lee Morgan's "Mr. Kenyatta," followed by a loopy take of "Watermelon Man" with trombonist Roswell Rudd stealing the spotlight with his sassy solo. Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca" is a natural choice for a Latin jazz date and this robust performance doesn't disappoint, particularly with Smith's dissonant solo. Smith's engaging Afro-Cuban treatment of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" demonstrates his skills as a soloist as he navigates the demanding bop line on his ungainly instrument. The bassoonist also takes in Brazilian music, offering a sublime setting of "Black Orpheus" (which also showcases guitarist Sandro Albert) and a wild, risk-taking, breezy "So Danco Samba." An added surprise is Leonard Bernstein's tense "Mambo from the Dance at the Gym" (written for the Broadway musical West Side Story), yet another vigorous workout. Highly recommended.

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