Monday, July 25, 2011
Latin Bassoon? Daniel Smith's "Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz"
There are many reasons why you aren't going to find a huge selection to choose from if you are looking for a Latin Jazz Bassoon disk. The rapid, syncopated staccato execution a good Latin solo requires may be beyond the means of some players. And the truth is there are not many bassoonists who seek to play this music. Daniel Smith does, as you can see from this review posting.
This isn't Mr. Smith's first album, though I believe it's the first in this genre. I reviewed his blues album in June of 2009 (see www.gapplegatemusicreview.blogspot.com). He's a "try anything" kind of fellow. And on that album he shows how he can synthesize mainstream jazz playing and adapt it with success to his instrument, with some fire and charm.
His new Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz (Summit 560) finds him taking on an expanded sort of Latin repertoire: An Afro-Latin version of Lee Morgan's "Mr. Kenyatta," Dizzy's "Manteca," Latin funk over Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," Brazilian samba on "Korg In," Bernstein's West Side Story vignette "Mambo from the Dance at the Gym," and so on. He's assembled a fine group with Neil Clarke on Latin percussion, Daniel Kelly doing creditable Latin jazz on piano, some guests (Sandro Albert on guitar, Roswell Rudd on two numbers! etc.) And the supporting cast lives up to expectations. The arrangements are simple, crafted to bring out a Latin groove with a good deal of space for bassoon solos and head-melodizing.
Daniel aquits himself most of the time. Other times his phrasing can be less than stellar--when he takes on the staccato Latinisms directly.
On the whole this is a fun album and quite unusual when you think of what's out there. It isn't going to win any Grammys (and of course nothing else will in Latin Jazz either, since they shamelessly have eliminated the category along with some others. Boo!) It will win a spot in your listening cycle if you crave variety and respond to a Latin groove.