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

I couldn't believe it when I spied the title to this one: jazz/blues bassoon? HOW COOL IS THAT?!?! I love bassoon and the instrument is damn near extinct outside the classical oeuvre. Finding it in anything other than baroque and other musics is a near impossibility. So when I came across the mannerist progrock group Gryphon way back in the 70s, I exulted 'cause those cats had one. I'd always hoped Gentle Giant woulda trotted one out, but I guess playing 30 jillion other instruments was sufficient. Later on, the spactacular Univers Zero picked one up and even Ambrosia's Burleigh Drummond dug the thing. Then I stopped in my tracks: bassoon isn't an easy axe to play and usually not open to a hell of a lot of inflection, soooooo……what would happen here? Well, I needn't have worried. Daniel Smith has been acknowledged as one of the greatest wranglers of the instrument in his time, and he really is.

The very first cut, Jimmy Forrest's Night Train, introduces the bassoon's lower register baritone strangeness, and Smith starts cutting up late in the song. Then Better Get Hit in Your Soul finds him doubling into accompaniment for a chase sequence just before Ron Jackson sprints in for some boppy guitar. Smith succeeds that cut with some more obtuse blowing transferred over from the first track just before pianist Robert Bosscher angularizes things, doing the same again in Sonny Rollin's Blue Seven, transfusing some old barrelhouse right into the equation. Senor Blues, my favorite cut, becomes a weird but way cool alien festival sequence blending several World modes, violinist Efrat Shapira bringing things back to cognizability. I mean, everyone goes be-boppin' nuts on this one.

After Frank Senior completes his halfway mark vocals in Hallelujah, I Love Her So, Smith cuts in with a smokin' solo followed by Mike O'Brien bowing his contrabass in kindred squonk. Watch for Greg 'Organ Monk' Lewis' appearances, too, 'cause he storms in, and ya just might find yourself taking off your clothes and dancing up on the bandstand if you're not careful. He certainly fires up Smith in C Jam Blues, letting the classic standard huff its chest up and strut. Over in Britain, Smith has been so well received for not just jazz but also the baroque musics the bassoon birthed within that the BBC devoted an entire show to the guy. On these shores, PBS spotlighted him on All Things Considered. You, however, only need pop this release in your CD player, and that'll be more than enough. The music speaks for itself.

Mark S. Tucker, Acoustic Music