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Jazz Bassoon - Classical Crossover

Jazz Bassoonist Daniel Smith has offered us the UK Premier Promotion of his latest Album - The Swinging Bassoon! - Book Now!!

Bassoon, and Contrabassoon - Woodwind Instrument

The beginning of the bassoon is similar to the oboe. The bassoon itself first appeared about 1650, and by the end of the 1700’s, it had from 4 to 8 keys. During the 1800’s, many people experimented with improving the fingering of the bassoon. Most of the changes helped the fingering, but made the tone of the instrument suffer. The Heckel  family of Germany managed to improve the fingering of the bassoon without damaging its tone. Many professionals today play bassoons made by the Heckel Company.
The bassoon is the lowest and largest of the woodwinds. Its sound has a lot of variety, depending on if low, medium or high notes are used. In the very highest range, the bassoon can sound throaty and not of this world. In its mid-range, the bassoon has a large, full, mellow noise. In the lowest range, it can be extremely powerful and heavy. Similar to its cousin, the oboe, it has a double reed, though its reed is larger and the cane must be bound together with wire and heavy thread. The reed fits onto the metal crook, or S- bocal, which is a curved metal tube about 13-1/2 inches long that fits into the bassoon. If you strapped it to a vice and stretched it out, it would be approximately nine feet long. If it was to be compared with the strings, the bassoon would be equal to a cello. Once upon a time someone said it sounded like a baritone singer with a bad cold.
In order to play a bassoon, most players must have rather large hands, so most begin on another instrument and learn bassoon secondly. Bassoons are usually made of maple wood,
Pear wood although some models are now made of ebonite (hard, black rubber) (or plastic)It is a very versatile instrument. It can play very low notes and still get quite high. It can also play very quick passages of music.
The three branches of the woodwind family have different sources of sound. Vibrations begin when air is blown across the top of an instrument, across a single reed, or across two reeds. Reeds are small pieces of cane. A single reed is clamped to a mouthpiece at the top of the instrument and vibrates against the mouthpiece when air is blown between the reed and the mouthpiece. Two reeds tied together are commonly known as a double reed. This double reed fits into a tube at the top of the instrument and vibrates when air is forced between the two reeds.
The bassoon is a large double reed instrument with a lower sound than the other woodwind instruments. Its double reed is attached to a small curved tube called an S-bocal which fits into the bassoon. When the player blows air between the reeds, the vibrating column of air inside the instrument travels over nine feet to the bottom of the instrument, then up to the top where the sound comes out. The bassoon is so long that it has to be bent in half!
The Bassoonist is sometimes asked to play the Contrabassoon - this makes a fantastically deep sound. The double bassoon, or contrabassoon, sounds lower and is about two times longer (if stretched out). Perhaps the idea even came from a serpent (being all wound up, that is). Because of its unusual appearance, it’s sometimes called the "clown of the orchestra" but for the serpent. (it would look even stranger if it was NOT folded up!). If you think that this instrument is heavy, you’re right. Players must support it with a sling. If instruments were people, the double bassoon would be a bass.  The bassoon can play chords called multiphonics

The bassoon is a double-reed woodwind instrument with a conical bore air column, the bass member of the oboe family. Its normal range is about 3 octaves, from B1flat to E5flat. The tube, 2.79 m (9 ft 2 in) long, is bent to make a height of 1.22 m (4 ft) and consists of a metal crook on which the reed is placed and four sections of maple or pear wood: the tenor, the butt, the bass, and the bell.  The characteristic sound of a bassoon is influenced by a strong formant, as illustrated by the accompanying waveforms. Each of the notes displayed has a peak of intensity in the neighbourhood of 500 Hz.

The double reed is made from cane, with most bassoonists making their own reeds. The player's lips exert a lot of control over the reed, with more than half of the reed in the player's mouth.

The player's right hand is responsible for seventeen different keys with nine of them controlled by the thumb. The left hand controls twelve with four for the thumb.



This is an outline drawing of a Bassoon reed. You might think a Bassoonist is part mechanic if you look at some of the tools that are used to make reeds.

 The raw cane is gouged and then cut with a profiler which removes the bulk of the unwanted bark and cane to get close to the desired profile.
While working on the reed, it is common to check the thickness of the blades by using a precision dial indicator which gently presses down on the reed with a spring-loaded arm, connected to a dial which reads the thickness in fractions of a Millimetres.

Daniel Smith Bassoonist
The leading pioneer of the bassoon with his many critically acclaimed award-winning recordings and live performances. As the most recorded bassoon soloist in the world, his repertoire spans music ranging from Baroque concerti to contemporary music including jazz, ragtime and crossover. He is the only bassoonist performing and recording in both the jazz and classical fields. Daniel Smith's unique career has been profiled in Gramophone, the New York Times, Fanfare, Classical Music, Musical Heritage Review, American Record Guide, Classic CD and many leading European publications including The Times in England. In the USA, his career was highlighted on PBS's "All Things Considered'. In the UK, one of his recordings was the 'signature tune' for BBC radio 3 while BBC radio 4 recently showcased his career.

Daniel Smith's performances include jazz with his quartet 'Bassoon and Beyond', classical recitals with piano, concertos with orchestra, and highly popular programs divided between classical and jazz, with music ranging from Vivaldi, Elgar, Mozart and Verdi to Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie. Described as a 'phenomenon', he has been called the 'Gerry Mulligan of the Bassoon' in the world of jazz and the 'Galway' and 'Rampal of the Bassoon' in the world of classical music, bringing his unique sound and style to concert series, festivals and jazz clubs.

His historic and unprecedented 6 CD set on ASV of the complete 37 Vivaldi bassoon concertos was chosen as 'Best Concerto Recording of the Year' by the Music Industry Association and awarded the Penguin Guide's coveted *** rosette rating as well as inclusion in Fanfare's annual 'Want List'. These concertos, recorded with The English Chamber Orchestra and I Solisti di Zagreb, firmly established Daniel Smith as a leading soloist on his instrument. His recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Caravaggio Ensemble for the ASV White Line label produced innovate crossover albums, with unique renditions of ragtime pieces, opera excerpts, and popular standards. In the world of jazz, his albums on the Zah Zah label, 'BEBOP BASSOON' and 'THE SWINGING BASSOON' showcase the music of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and many other legendary jazz artists. Other recordings of Daniel Smith are available on Vox, MHS, KemDisc, Pearl, Spectrum, Cambria, Regis, Crystal and Forum labels.

His performances have included many firsts: The American West Coast premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gunther Schuller's 'Concerto for Contrabassoon and Orchestra'; the world premiere of Steve Gray's 'Jazz Suite For Bassoon' with the Welsh Chamber Orchestra; solo concerts at New York's Lincoln Centre and the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen, and also five appearances at London's 'Pizza On The Park' with his jazz quartet. Other major venues where he has performed include New York's Carnegie Recital Hall (two appearances) and the Merkin Concert Hall. In London, the Wigmore Hall (three times), St.John's Smith Square, and the BBC Concert Hall.
In 2003, Daniel Smith was designated as 'Ambassador for the Bassoon' by Youth Music in the UK.

In 2005, legendary composer/arranger ROBERT FARNON dedicated his final composition to Daniel Smith. Entitled 'Romancing the Phoenix', this three movement bassoon concerto for solo amplified bassoon with rhythm section and full symphony orchestra in a jazz oriented style with symphonic overtones was written specifically with Daniel in mind. Warner Chappell recently published the score and parts with Robert Farnon's dedication to 'The American virtuoso Daniel Smith' on the title page. World-wide premieres of this exciting and innovative piece by one of the 20th Century's greatest composer/arrangers will be announced shortly.

Daniel Smith has invested a lot of time and energy to bring the repertoire of the bassoon into ragtime, jazz and contemporary music. Smith has recorded such titles as Bassoon Bon Bons, Bravo Bassoon and The Swinging Bassoon, as well as performances of Gunther Schuller's “Concerto for Contrabassoon and Orchestra” and Steve Gray's “Jazz Suite For Bassoon and Orchestra.” As a result of his many and diverse bassoon recordings, he has received considerable media attention for his efforts. In 2005, composter/arranger Robert Farnon dedicated his final composition to Smith: “Romancing the Phoenix,” a three-movement bassoon concerto with rhythm section and symphony orchestra in a jazz setting.

In working with a jazz piano trio in order to adapt the bassoon to an all-jazz standards setting, Smith is extremely comfortable with the concept and the results, even if the instrument does not treat all of the titles equally. For example, on Thelonious Monk's “Blue Monk,” the mournful sound of the bassoon is just perfect to demonstrate how well the concept works. However, when he tackles Horace Silver's “Sister Sadie,” the funky classic sounds too artificial. The ballad and blues entries, like the Miles Davis “All Blues” or the Ellington piece “In a Sentimental Mood” are sympatico with the use of bassoon as a lead instrument—as is the case with such bebop classics as “Killer Joe,” the Parker/Gillespie tune ”Anthropology” and Sonny Rollins' “Doxy.” In an interesting departure from this format, Daniel Smith provides an experiment in adapting Coltrane's “Up Against the Wall” to fit a piano-less group of bassoon, bass and drums. Otherwise, Smith is well supported by the trio of Martin Bejerano (piano), John Sullivan (bass) and Ludwig Afonso (drums)

Track listing: Killer Joe; Anthropology; Blue Monk; Sister Sadie; In A Sentimental Mood; All Blues; Doxy; Up Against the Wall; Birk's Works; Sticky Wicket.

I would like also to bring up the subject of unusual and different music which can be performed on the bassoon and also jazz. Ragtime if executed with the right feeling can sound very natural on the instrument, as does a large amount of 'crossover' material including transcriptions of music normally performed on other instruments as well as orchestral pieces. As for playing jazz on the bassoon several years ago, Steve Gray composed a work for me entitled 'Jazz Suite' which I had the honour of performing with the Welsh Chamber Orchestra. The piece contained improvisational spots and which forced me to plunge in and get serious about playing real jazz on the instrument. I was already a virtuoso so to speak but all of my technical skills were of no help whatsoever in learning how to play jazz in a serious way. I had to methodically learn to play extended chords and scales from top to bottom on the instrument and in all keys. This included many scales and chords which do not appear in classical music. And then to place all ideas exactly where the underlying chords are heard and of course to 'hear' musical ideas many measures before you execute them. This took me about four years to accomplish and along the way my arms became very sore and stiff from the effort. But then suddenly the ideas flowed and the soreness stopped... everything just flowed! All the musical ideas made sense and can now perform a full two hour jazz concert without using any music and with a repertoire of nearly one hundred jazz pieces to pick from including bebop, swing, Latin, blues, ballads, etc.

Finally, the bassoon must be amplified when performing jazz, otherwise it would not be heard above a rhythm section, let along a full symphony orchestra. I have a special microphone attached to my crook/bocal which makes this possible. When Robert Farnon found this out, he was much relieved knowing that his music would be clearly heard above the orchestra in his bassoon concerto, And as for developing a jazz style on the instrument, there are no real role models from the past to learn from such as Armstrong, Gillespie or Davis on trumpet or Parker, Getz or Rollins on saxophone. It is all pioneering stuff and I am very pleased to be involved in such ground breaking efforts and of course with the bassoon concerto of Robert Farnon as a fitting memorial to his memory and talent.


Daniel Smith's latest recordings, BEBOP BASSOON and THE SWINGIN' BASSOON are to be released on the Zah Zah label. Featuring a top US rhythm section (pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist John Sullivan and drummer Ludwig Afonso), the two CDs were recorded 'back-to-back' and up until now have been only available from Daniel's management where they were enthusiastically received by jazz critics worldwide.


Currently member of the Roy Haynes band. Performed with: Russell Malone, James Moody, Ira Sullivan, Marcus Printup and many others. Major jazz festivals including those of Playboy, Montreal, Aspen, Ravinia, Sedona, Big Sur, Lincoln Center, Bahia, Charlie Parker. Jazz clubs appearances include: Birdland, The Blue Note, Jazz Gallery, Sunset Club (Paris), Jazz Showcase, Dakota. Recordings on various labels.


Currently member of the Roy Haynes band. Performed with Joe Lovano, Roy Hargrove, Mike Manieri, Louis Hayes, David Sanchez, Bill Stewart. Jazz club venues and festivals include: The Jazz Gallery, Village Vanguard, The Blue Note, The Knitting Factory, Smalls, Lincoln Centre. Recordings on various labels.


One of New York's premier jazz drummers, currently with Spiro Gyra. Featured with Bob Berg, Ira Sullivan, Nestor Torres, Sammy Figueroa, Eddie Rivera, Hector Martianon, Donny McCaslin. Ensembles include CJB Concert Jazz Band and the Bop Brothers. Recordings on various labels.


Paul Hanson Jazz Bassoon

A Bassoon Innovator
It can be safely said that Paul Hanson is a true innovator on the bassoon. He has rewritten the rulebook and set new standards for what is possible on this most classical of woodwind instruments. His explorations have transcended limitations and created new possibilities-all while making music of the highest quality. Paul’s repertoire encompasses musical aspects of all modern styles of improvised music. From his roots as an award-winning classical bassoonist and jazz saxophonist- Paul has sought to expand the lexicon of the bassoon while creating a unique musical voice.

As an improvising bassoonist-Paul has recorded and/or performed with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Wayne Shorter, Medeski Martin & Wood, Bob Weir’s RATDOG, Peter Erskine, Billy Childs, Billy Higgins, Ray Charles, Charlie Hunter, T. Lavitz from Dixie Dregs, Jeff Sipe, Jonas Hellborg, Omar Sosa, Bob Moses, Kai Eckhardt, Peter Apfelbaum and the Hieroglyphics Ensemble, The Paul Dresher Ensemble, DAVKA, St. Joseph Ballet Company, The Klezmorim, as jazz soloist with the Oakland Eastbay Symphony Orchestra, as classical soloist with the Napa Symphony Orchestra (non-improvising) and many more. As a sax player-Paul has recorded and/or performed with Eddie Money, Boz Scaggs, The Tempations, Kotoja, What It Is, Samba Ngo, Ed Kelly, Steve Smith, Tom Coster and others.

Paul has travelled throughout Europe, Japan and the States. He has appeared as a bassoonist at Carnegie Hall, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Berlin Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, the Ravinia Festival, the Leverkuzen Festival, the INTERLINK festival in Japan, the California Edge Festival 2005 and at the 1999 NAMM show in Nashville. As a performer/educator- Paul has performed and masterclassed at IDRS festivals from Rotterdam to Texas. He has given masterclasses at Ithaca College, Penn State University, Arizona State University and Portland State University-all specializing in modern performance techniques and improvisation for bassoonists and other classical instrumentalists.

Paul was the 1996 Grand Prize winner of JAZZIZ Magazine’s WOODWINDS ON FIRE award-the first bassoonist ever to win. He also was the winner of the Robert Mondavi Woodwind concerto competition in 1984. Paul was awarded an NEA Jazz Fellowship in 1995.

Paul is a Moosmann Bassoon artist. He endorses Ultrasound amplifiers.




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpCGbb80JI4&mode=related&search=  Chic Corea's 'Got a Match'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuYE5G1C9MQ&mode=related&search= Charlie Parker's 'Donna Lee'


Mike Rabinowitz - Jazz Bassoonist

For over twenty years Michael Rabinowitz has been on the cutting edge as a versatile bassoonist. His broad musical experience makes him as comfortable with Bach and Mozart as he is with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.

He has recorded with Ira Sullivan, Red Rodney, Wynton Marsalis, John Hicks, Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano. His festival appearances include Chicago, Montreal, Berlin, Tri-city, San Francisco and Hollywood Bowl. Michael can be heard with the Mingus Orchestra. (See schedule for upcoming gigs). He has appeared at such New York City venues as The Kavehaz and Birdland.
Michael's recordings have received high praise from around the world. He recorded his third commercial CD,
Rabinowitz in Utopia, in Holland, as an invited guest and recorded his fourth CD, Bassoon in Orbit, earlier this year on The Vanderbilt label. Mike's most recent success has been his fifth recorded CD, Ocean Eyes.





Alexandre Foo

Born in 1975, Sao Paulo, Brasil. Studies with Klaus Thunemann in Berlin from 1999 to 2003. Academist from the Berlin Philharmonic, 2002-2003. Since 2004 , Solo Bassoonist from Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l88CCk0O4I&mode=related&search=paul%20hanson%20jazz%20bassoon%20bebop%20flecktones%20jazzbassoonpaul  Alexandre Foo Quintet.

Ray has enjoyed a long and fruitful career  in the music industry, working with such diverse artists as:Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Zappa, Ravi Shankar, Henry Mancini, (who composed "Piece for Jazz Bassoon and Orchestra" for Ray),  John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Quincy Jones, Jack Elliot, Lalo Schifrin, Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, Madonna,  Stevie Wonder, Chaka Kahn, Barbra Streisand, Bill Conti, Burt Bacharach, Bobby McFerrin, Horace Silver,  Joe Henderson, Lou Rawls, Willy Bobo, Michael Feinstein, Moacir Santos, Fred Myrow, Woody Herman etc. 

He can  be heard on numerous movie soundtracks and recordings, including albums of his own.
(scroll down)  His international concert\festival performances as a headliner include: The Hollywood Bowl, L.A. Music Centre,  Disney Concert Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, American Orchestra,  Rochester Symphony Orchestra and the Playboy, Monterey, Mobile and various European Jazz Festivals.  The 1984 Olympics saw figure skater Rosalyn Sumner performing her skating program to Rays rockinsax solo on "We Go Together"

As an actor, Ray starred in the leading role of the highly acclaimed, award winning short subject movie,  "End of the Rainbow."

His outstanding level of musicianship and versatility, has garnered him many awards, including: "Most Valuable Player Emeritus"(4 consecutive years) from NARAS, "Musician of the Year" Jazz Podium Magazine, Germany. "Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition"Downbeat Magazine,"Grammy nominations"  "Album of the Year"Hi-Fi Mag. "Silver Microphone Award"Ad Music, "Jazz Pioneer Award"BMI, "John Phillip Sousa Award"Quincy High School, Baritone Sax, "Honorary Citizens Award"Mobile Alabama, is also included in both Groves Music Dictionary and Encyclopedia of Jazz.

Receiving his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Boston Conservatory and Berklee School of Music,  Ray successfully taught public school Junior High Band, Chorus and Classroom Music in Randolph Massachusetts. (1964-69).  "A wonderfully memorable and personal growth period of my life, but I needed to fulfill an urgent desire to play music professionally." In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles to realize his dream. .......Those former students, still contact him to express their acknowledgment and gratitude.............."the best gift a teacher can receive"

Ray respectfully credits and thanks his most influential teachers: Simon Kovar, Irving Kams, Joe Viola,
Jim Progris, Jimmy Mosher, Herb Pomeroy, George Gaffney, Ivar O. Nelson and Albert Harris.
He holds the highest regard and love for his bassoon teacher, Simon Kovar, "The Father of the Bassoon" 
who on his death bed, asked his wife Rose, to "call Ray Pizzi.....tell him no lesson today" and passed away.









The Chiltern Hundreds Jazz Festival -

Yes it is possible - given Arts Grants and Corporate support. 

There are sufficient venues both in the Town Centres and the surrounding Villages to create a Major Annual Event (even Bicester organises one) -

If you are interested then declare here in what capacity you are prepared to assist.
Chiltern Hundreds Jazz Festival Support

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Last modified: 18/02/2012