Admittedly, there's something about the bassoon - maybe the name - that seems to make people smirk a little. And an album titled The Swingin' Bassoon might elicit a chuckle — after all, when I picked it up I thought it said Swingin' Baboon. But this new release from bassoonist Daniel Smith on the ZahZah label deserves serious treatment, or at least a good listen.
Everybody has heard of the bassoon, and most probably have a pretty good idea of what it looks like too. They might even know one when they hear it — or maybe not. (It's been described as sounding like a cross between a trombone and a saxophone, but if you're really curious there are some clips below.)
If you are a little better acquainted with the instrument than the average person, you might know that Daniel Smith is one of the most accomplished soloists around. He's a talented performer with a rich background in classical music, but has made it his mission in recent years to bring the bassoon to a wider audience. With that in mind, he's gone in new directions - especially jazz - and his newest album, The Swingin' Bassoon, reflects that continuing commitment.
It's mostly a collection of traditional jazz standards reworked for Smith's instrument, and it follows his success with 2006's Bebop Bassoon, which did the same for a number of bebop classics. Here he's accompanied by the same talented musicians, including pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist John Sullivan, and Cuban percussionist Ludwig Afonso.
I love old jazz standards and even though the bassoon sound is very different from what I'm accustomed to hearing, I found myself enjoying this album a lot. For one thing, it cleverly opens with Tommy Dorsey's theme song, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," which is a good choice since it eases us into the sound of a bassoon in a song famous for a trombone lead. That paves the way for later tunes where Smith's bassoon subs for more widely varied instruments.