Daniel Smith showcases the instrument in Blue Bassoon, an impressive 13-track collection of jazz and blues numbers. While the songs are familiar, they have never sounded like they do here.
"My goal is to establish the bassoon as a valid instrument for jazz soloing," Smith says in the liner notes.
The instrument is more common in the classical music world, and Smith’s recording of Vivaldi’s bassoon concerti won the Music Industry Association’s Best Concerto Recording of the Year award in 1992. He has crossed over into other genres, with the new CD continuing his jazz journey and taking him into the blues arena.
Smith has selected a strong lineup of songs by Horace Silver, Charlie Parker, Mercer Ellington, Joe Zawinul, B.B. King, Cannonball Adderly, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Robert Johnson, George Shearing, Wayne Shorter, and Sonny Rollins.
He settles into an easy groove on King’s "My Baby’s Gone" and then finds a gentler tone on Johnson’s "From Four Till Late." Both blues songs feature guitarist Larry Campbell, who’s known for his work with Bob Dylan.
Another highlight comes when Smith and pianist Martin Bejerano, a member of Roy Haynes’ band, turn up the heat on Morgan’s "The Double Up," a bop number that sizzles under their playing.
Throughout the CD, Smith demonstrates just how versatile the big bassoon is. Smith plays to the instrument’s low, mournful sound on Mingus’ "Nostalgia in Times Square," but more often he is interesting finding the bassoon’s other voices either through different tones and swinging rhythms.
Also featured on the album are bassist Edward Perez and drummer Ludwig Afonso.