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Bassoonist Daniel Smith’s latest album explores ‘smokin’ hot’ blues

Cover of the recording being discussed
Cover of the recording being discussed

Over the course of four jazz albums, Daniel Smith has found a place for the bassoon across the many facets of the jazz genre. His albums on the Zah Zah label, Bebop Bassoon and The Swingin’ Bassoon, cover what many (myself included) would call the two major stylistic movements in the history of jazz. He then went over to Summit, where he released Blue Bassoon and The Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz! Next week, on February 11, Summit will release his latest, Smokin’ Hot Bassoon Blues, currently available for pre-order from Is he going back over familiar ground?

Hardly. The “smokin’ hot” rhetoric of the new album contrasts sharply with Smith’s selections for Blue Bassoon, which tended to reflect that darker state of mind that sets in which drinking alone in an empty bar on a rainy night. All twelve tracks on this new album are about as upbeat as you can get. Indeed, Smith’s wife, Judi, passed away in the spring of 2013 after over half a century of a successful marriage; and Smith felt himself so fortunate in the life that they had shared that he decided to honor his late wife’s memory in the most life-affirming way possible.

That affirmation cuts across a diverse assortment of jazz makers. On the one hand the album reaches back to the blues style of the swing era with Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues.” At the other extreme we have “Better Get Hit in Your Soul,” in which Charles Mingus pushed the blues about as close to the edge of the avant-garde as anyone has done. There are also two selections from the rhythm-and-blues style of Ray Charles, both with vocals (How could you do Ray Charles without vocals?) by Frank Senior. In all there are twelve tracks, half arranged by Smith’s pianist, Robert Bosscher, each with its own distinctive take on a lively (as in living for all it is worth) approach to the blues.

I defy anyone to listen to this new album and not get caught up in the positive energy it exudes so abundantly.