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Daniel Smith: Jazz Suite for Bassoon

- CD Reviews

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Daniel Smith: Jazz Suite for Bassoon
2015: Summit Records

Daniel Smith, bassoon
Steve Gray, piano
Mitch Dalton, guitar
Jim Lawless, vibraphone
Roy Babbington, bass
Mike Smith, drums
Bruce Boardman, piano
Terry Davis, bass
Martin Drew, drums

Caravaggio Ensemble:
Paul Manley, violin, Boguslaw Kosieki, violin,
Kate Musker, viola, Justin Pearson, cello,
Michael Brittain, double bass, Jonathan Still, piano


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 10, 2015

This CD is sophisticated, original, and compelling. Daniel Smith, an extraordinary bassoonist, has presented, for this album, adaptations of baroque music for bassoon trio, Scott Joplin rags, and Steve Gray’s three-movement, Jazz Suite for Bassoon. Mr. Smith brings along varying ensembles of musicians for each of three recorded projects. In addition, The Caravaggio Ensemble, on two violins, viola, cello, bass, and piano, accompanies the bassoon and piano on the rags. Tremendous talent, effort, and expertise have combined for an astounding listening experience. This is an album to keep at the top of your media and to download to your listening device. The album’s liner notes, by Michael J. West and Daniel Smith, are detailed with the history of each work and interesting biographies of each featured artist. Beyond learning about Mr. Smith’s musical background in London and his long-range planning for this album, you’ll also learn about baroque composers: Vivaldi, Purcell, Byrd, and Bach. The bassoon, itself, becomes a showcased artist, with its tonal versatility, ranging from bass to piccolo.

Notable tracks:

#1 – Allegro from Concerto in Bb – Composed by Antonio Vivaldi. In this delightful baroque selection from a Vivaldi bassoon concerto, Daniel Smith keeps his bassoon pulsating with energized, rapid syncopations, classical and contemporary in mood. Smith’s bassoon is played mostly in the deeper tonal range, with a bit of soprano-styled flourish toward the finale. Bruce Boardman on piano, Terry Davis on bass, and Martin Drew on brushed drums provide stylized support in punctuated motifs.

#2 – Pavan for the Earl of Salisbury – Composed by William Byrd. Smith’s bassoon takes on an entirely new aura on the track, playing Byrd’s “Pavan”. The tonal range is likened to a harpsichord, which was the instrument for which the work was originally created, four centuries ago. Piano and bassoon, with a lush bass backdrop, give this piece poignancy and elegance, throughout.

#8 – Original Rags – Composed by Scott Joplin. This track fuses original rags into danceable rhythms, upbeat and ebullient. For the Joplin Rags (three tracks total), Mr. Smith brings along Jonathan Still on piano and The Caravaggio Ensemble. The scintillating cello, bass, viola, and violins add a retro ambiance, with swirling bassoon-piano repetitions that evoke a rollicking, saloon polka.

#11 – Finale of “Jazz Suite for Bassoon” – Composed by Steve Gray. This finale to Steve Gray’s “Jazz Suite for Bassoon” is composed for diverse musical genres, within an almost seven-minute track. The bassoon and drums (Mike Smith) open the third, Finale movement, with intriguing vibraphone (Jim Lawless) interludes. Soon the guitar (Mitch Dalton) and vibraphone lead a smooth, swinging central theme, with a bit of rapture, shifting the theme to piano (Steve Gray) and bass (Roy Babbington). Mr. Gray has the bassoon return in an enchanting tune, matched by piano, followed by the entire ensemble of six, infusing merriment in the final moments. As soon as this track ended, I wanted to hear the entire “Jazz Suite” again, as well as the entire album. This is a remarkable musical project.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at