The bassoon is an oblong looking woodwind instrument and a close relative of double reed instruments. The bassoon plays music composed in the bass and tenor register. The instrument was made in the 1600’s and is mostly used for classical and chamber music. Some noted jazz musician test drove the bassoon.
The instrument surfaced in jazz during 20's. Big band leader Paul Whiteman occasionally employed a bassoon player. Sax men Yusef Lateef, Marshall Allen, and Hugh Lawson played the bassoon. Daniel Smith, a classical trained musician, popularized the bassoon like Eric Dolphy popularized the bass clarinet.
Smith has made classical and jazz recordings. He’s considered a top bassoon player. Smith’s last jazz album was “Blue Bassoon”. It was an acclaimed jazz-blues date. Summit Records unveil his new album “Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz” last month. Smith gave some well-know jazz songs—“Mr. Kenyetta”, “Watermelon Man, “Yardbird Suite, and “Listen Here”—a Latin makeover. Oddly, Smith didn’t hire any Latin jazz musicians. I guess you don’t really need them to make a convincing Latin jazz album, which Smith succeeded at doing.
Super trombonist Roswell Rudd made a cameo on the album’s best track “Watermelon Man”. Smith knows the Latin jazz language backward and forward. And so does his sidemen. They worked best on up-tempo songs. Pianist Daniel Kelly was the MVP. Kelly’s fingers seemed possessed on up-tempo numbers “Listen Here” and “Come Condela”. Kelly played tenderly on “Black Orpheus” as if his fingers were cashmere. “Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz” isn’t a groundbreaking jazz album. But is an enjoyable one.