It’s time to take the bassoon seriously — we mean it!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Daniel Smith is the Elvis Presley of the bassoon.

Like the King himself, who took a then-obscure style and turned it into the world’s most popular forms of music, Smith is single-handedly bringing the obscure woodwind into its long-deserved, though long-deprived, spotlight (minus the seductive hips).

“I consider myself a revolution­ary,” he said last week, before kicking off a weekly gig at Puppet’s Jazz Bar in Park Slope. “Not many people have heard the bassoon the way I play it.”

You could have stopped that sentence at the word “bassoon.” But Smith, who has been playing the music world’s least-appreciated instrument for 45 years, is trying to change that, too, by crossing the line from classical to jazz.

In some songs, his bassoon sounds like a trumpet. In others, a sax. In all songs, it sounded amazing.

No wonder Puppets owner Jamie Affoumado was excited about Smith’s open-ended run.

“I’m incredibly pleased,” he said. “I love the instrument. And it looks like he could bring in a crowd.”

Oddly given his gifts, the bassoon was not Smith’s his first love. He began with the flute and saxophone, but — as with most people who’ve tired of the meaningless one-night flings — he eventually settled down with his bassoon.

“I took it up to make a living,” he said. “Began playing classical, but eventually I just drifted into jazz.”

He denied that the bassoon is a laughingstock of the music world.

“Actually, it’s one of the most difficult instruments to play,” said Smith, whose 20th album, “Blue Bassoon” will be available next month. “Where the confusion might be coming from is that almost everybody, musician or otherwise, can’t imagine the bassoon as a viable jazz instrument, which I am proving wrong.”

Daniel Smith’s Bassoon and Beyond at Puppet’s Jazz Bar [481 Fifth Ave. between 11th and 12th streets, (718) 499-2622], first Tuesday of the month, beginning Aug. 4, 9 pm to 1 am. For info, visit

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

mazza from kensington says:
i understand this is basically a fluff piece to drive people to a show, but this is nyc. and nyc should take care of it's own.

In nyc we have Karen Borca. An amazing improvisational bassoonist and composer, first recorded in 1976 as the infamous Wildflower Loft Sessions documenting nyc's loft scene--arguably one of the most influential musical experiments in contemporary improvisational music.

since then many of the major figures of creative improvisation have been honored to perform with her. And she continues to be a regular figure in the nyc jazz scene, often attending and supporting other musicians, especially at Vision Festival or RUCMA performances.
you can check out her bio at if you don't believe me.

i wish it went without mention, but it doesn't, but the fact that Karen Borca is a woman in experimental jazz is probably the primary reason she's never been granted the exposure or recording contract her talents deserve. This is true of many jazz musicians of both sexes, but sadly especially true of women.

In contrast, I've never heard of-or heard of-daniel smith but I'll make a point of checking him out now that he's "crossed over" to jazz. he's probably a great guy, but it's difficult to believe he's played bassoon for 45 years, performs (lives?) in nyc and doesn't mention her as a 'fellow' jazz bassoonist much less an influence. like i said, in nyc we need to take care of our own.
July 28, 2009, 1:54 pm
guy from bensonhurst says:
this is the total opposite of a fluff piece. The article foucses on daniel not on the jazz bar.
July 28, 2009, 8:53 pm

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