The Swingin' Bassoon

Daniel Smith

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The Swingin' Bassoon Review

by Ken Dryden

The bassoon is primarily relegated to providing background colors within a symphony orchestra, but much like the late Eric Dolphy turned the bass clarinet into a lead instrument in a small group jazz setting, Daniel Smith intends to establish his ungainly woodwind as a jazz instrument. Smith's second CD as a leader for the English label Zah Zah features pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist John Sullivan, and drummer Ludwig Afonso, who make up a potent rhythm section. Smith's program is an ambitious one, digging into standards, swing, bop, hard bop and more. The ballads and slower standards work best, allowing Smith to insert more space between notes. But the pieces with faster tempi like "Scrapple from the Apple" work against him, simply because it is hard to for him to articulate when switching from one note to another when they are close together, unlike the bass clarinet, which can better project sound without blurring the distinctiveness of each note. In any case, Smith proves his point that the bassoon has more potential than simply being relegated to providing background color, even if his project isn't a complete success.

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