Review of Daniel Smith's
'Smokin' Hot Bassoon Blues'

Daniel Smith has a unique talent. Not only is he one of the best bassoon players in the world, but also one of the few who mastered not only classical but also jazz on the instrument. Eight years ago, I had the opportunity to write a review about his album ‘Bebop Bassoon’, which can be found on the Internet. Aside from that album, Smith has other jazz recordings on which he plays swing, blues and Latin jazz. “Smokin’ Hot Bassoon Blues” is his 20th solo album, and to his 13 classical albums and 2 crossover albums, he is now adding his fifth jazz album, and the second one in the style of the blues.

I have to mention here that in April of 2013, Daniel’s beloved wife Judith died after a long fight with lung cancer. They had been married for more than 50 years, and this was a great loss to him. But as Marc Chagall didn’t abandon painting after the death of his wife Bella, Daniel Smith hasn’t stopped playing music. This is his first album after his wife’s death, and is dedicated to the memory of his beloved Judith. Daniel decided that the language of the blues was the best way for him to express both his love and his grief. For this album, he included music by some of the greats, such as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Ray Charles, Sonny Rollins and other giants from the worlds of jazz and blues. Daniel assembled an amazing group of performers including a quartet featuring Dutch pianist Robert Bosscher, bassist Michael O’Brien and drummer Vincent Ector, along with several great talents as guest artists. He has created an amazing album and although 2014 has just begun, I am sure it will be one of my favorites for the whole year.

I will not attempt to say much about how Daniel Smith plays the instrument, perhaps the most difficult of all the woodwinds, and one that was not meant to play jazz. Words cannot describe what he does… you simply have to hear it! The only example I will use for this purpose is one by a prominent British journalist who stated in an article for the London Evening Standard; ‘Daniel Smith makes his difficult instrument dance like Gerry Mulligan’s sax’. This album of ‘Smokin’ Hot Bassoon Blues’ features not only great solos but also incredible music and a great band.

This is also the first project in which Daniel is using a singer added to his band. This would be Frank Senior, who stands out on two Ray Charles pieces, “What’d I Say” and “ Hallelujah I Love Her So”. I should also mention the amazing Latin percussionist Neil Clarke who is featured on a number of pieces. Coupled with Daniel on several pieces is also violinist Efrat Shapira: in “Eddie’s Blues” (Phil Woods), “Moanin” (Bobby Timmons), and “Senor Blues” (Horace Silver), all of which also feature great solos by pianist Robert Bosscher and the incredible guitarist Ron Jackson. Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues” and Jimmy Smith’s “Back at the Chicken Shack” showcase one of the best modern jazz organists, Greg Lewis , while the final “Mamacita” by Joe Henderson is like a parade showing off all the participants in this project led by Daniel Smith.

This is not going to be the first time that Daniel could be considered by the Jazz Journalists Association for their award of ‘best performer on an instrument unusual in jazz’…he was finalist in both 2008 and 2010, and I will not be surprised if this year he is going to win in this category. “Smokin’ Hot Bassoon Blues’ provides every reason possible for this to happen.

Leonid Auskern, Jazzquad (Russia)