Friday, November 27, 2015

Daniel Smith Jazz Suite For Bassoon

Daniel Smith has established himself as an extraordinary practitioner of the bassoon, not simply in the classical realm, but in the jazz and crossover genres as well. His career spans his recording of all 37 Vivaldi concertos to 2014's "Hot Smokin' Bassoon Blues." Despite Smith's remarkable facility on the bassoon, I found listening to that recording a challenge in part because of the sonority of the instrument itself. However, along comes across a release of recordings made two decades ago, "Jazz Suite For Bassoon" (Summit Records), with music that is more satisfying to these ears.

The recording has three parts that displays the breath of Smith's musical range. The first part is entitled "Baroque Adaptations For Bassoon and Jazz Trio." Accompanied by a jazz trio, he plays compositions by Vivaldi, Bach, Henry Purcell and William Byrd. First adapting Vivaldi's "Allegro from Concerto in Bb," he jazz trio backing provides a chamber group feel for Smith's supple and stately playing. William Byrd's "Pavan: The Earl of Salisbury" in contrast has a more relaxed morose feel in the accompaniment and Smith's measured playing and followed by a swinging rendition of Purcell's "Air For Ground Bass," which will suggest some of the Modern Jazz Quartet explorations in a similar vein. This set of five pieces has an intimate feel and appeal.

The second part of the CD has Smith and a baroque music ensemble, the Caravaggio Ensemble rearrange three of Scott Joplin piano rags, "The Chrysanthemum," "The Easy Winners" and "Original Rags." Michael J. West in his notes for this release observes that this performance would have been a smash in 18th Century Ballrooms. The lively reworking of ""The Chrysanthemum," Smith taking the lead with the ensemble providing a foundation and musical accents. "The Easy Winners" has marvelous playing by Smith along with complementary interplay from the strings and restrained piano.

The three movement "Jazz Suite For Bassoon" was composed by pianist Steve Grey who plays on it along with guitarist Mitch Dalton, vibraphonist Jim Lawless, bassist Ray Babbington; and drummer Mike Smith. The opening "Allegro" movement incorporates elements of Bobby Timmons and the Adderlys in the very lyrical melody. The second movement "Ballade," opens with Lawless setting the mood on vibes before Smith enters, sounding almost like a cello. His playing is followed by a piano trio segment before Smith reenters. It is a lovely performance. The third and concluding movement, "Finale" mixes blues, march and vigorous rhythmic swing for a lively conclusion to the suite and the recording that bridges the realms of classical and jazz.

Daniel Smith's "Jazz Suite For Bassoon" is a marvelous showcase for Smith's bassoon mastery and some marvelous chamber jazz.

A publicist provided the review copy. I have made minor changes in the review that originally appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 362).

No comments: