Posts Tagged ‘recordings’

Weber Rondo for Children

I’ve writ­ten pre­vi­ous­ly about the three ear­li­est record­ings of Carl Maria von Weber’s Andan­te and Hun­gar­i­an Ron­do — two fea­tur­ing German-American bas­soon­ist William Gruner (1920 and 1926), and one with French bas­soon­ist Fer­nand Oubradous (1938). As a num­ber of peo­ple point­ed out, I left out anoth­er ear­ly record­ing by Eli Car­men from the late 40s. I didn’t have a copy at the time, but I’ve man­aged to get my hands on one now. This one’s a bit of an odd­ball: it’s only the Ron­do, it was record­ed for a children’s record label, and it was released on a vinyl 78rpm disc. As far as I can tell, this record­ing has nev­er been rere­leased, but you can lis­ten to it below.

Eli Carmen Weber Labels

Both labels of my disc — a lat­er Children’s Record Guild release, orig­i­nal­ly record­ed for Young People’s Records.
Click for a larg­er ver­sion.

Eli Carmen

Eli Car­men

Elias Car­men was born in New York in 1912 to Rus­sian immi­grant par­ents. His father was a tai­lor.1 He start­ed on the French sys­tem, but switched to the Ger­man bas­soon when he began stud­ies with Simon Kovar. Car­men and Sol Schoen­bach were the first two Ger­man bas­soon stu­dents at Juil­liard.2 Car­men played with many orches­tras dur­ing his car­er, most notably the Min­neapolis Sym­pho­ny, the Cleve­land Orches­tra, the NBC Sym­pho­ny, and the New York City Bal­let. He taught at both the Man­hat­tan School of Music and Yale. Car­men died fol­low­ing an auto acci­dent on Decem­ber 21, 1973.3

Car­men appeared on a great num­ber of orches­tral record­ings with the NBC Sym­pho­ny, as well as record­ings of cham­ber music by Beethoven, Lud­wig Spohr, Arthur Berg­er, and Mel Pow­ell. He also record­ed Vivaldi’s Con­cer­to in G minor, “La Not­te” with flutist Julius Bak­er on Odyssey.4 But this par­tial Weber is his only tru­ly solo record­ing.

YPR 1009 Cover

YPR 1009 Cov­er

Young People’s Records was estab­lished in the late 1940s, and sold records on a sub­scrip­tion mod­el. Exist­ing children’s records were meant to be played for chil­dren by their par­ents or teach­ers. But YPR want­ed kids (ages 2 to 11) to actu­al­ly use the records them­selves. To this end, YPR was one of the first com­pa­nies to exclu­sive­ly use the then-new flex­i­ble vinylite for their discs, rather than the old­er and much more frag­ile shel­lac. A large quan­ti­ty of the record­ed mate­ri­al was writ­ten specif­i­cal­ly for YPR — main­ly songs in var­i­ous styles, but also instru­men­tal works and even mini-operas. YPR’s edi­to­ri­al board, which includ­ed emi­nent Amer­i­can com­posers and teach­ers Howard Han­son and Dou­glas Moore, no doubt encour­aged the preva­lence of new com­mis­sions. Record­ings of Clas­si­cal or Roman­tic com­posers, such as Weber, com­prised a rel­a­tive­ly small por­tion of YPR’s cat­a­log.5

Records of YPR’s record­ing ses­sion dates evi­dent­ly haven’t sur­vived, but Eli Carmen’s Ron­do was released in Novem­ber 1949. Max Gob­er­man con­duct­ed this and YPR’s oth­er clas­si­cal selec­tions, and what’s billed here as the “YPR Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra” was assem­bled large­ly from Goberman’s own New York Sin­foni­et­ta. YPR empha­sized music’s edu­ca­tion­al and devel­op­men­tal ben­e­fits in both its adver­tis­ing and its pack­ag­ing. The text on this record’s sleeve give a kid-friendly expla­na­tion of Ron­do form:

Ron­do for Bas­soon and Orches­tra
by Carl Maria Von Weber (pro­nounced Fon Vaber) 1786 — 1826

When you tell an idea in words, it is called a sto­ry. When you tell an idea in music, it is called a melody. Just as you can tell a sto­ry in many dif­fer­ent ways, so you can tell a melody in many dif­fer­ent ways — and one of those ways is a ron­do. (Oth­er ways are march­es, dif­fer­ent kinds of dances, sonatas, sets of vari­a­tions. None of the­se ways of telling a melody have words or sto­ries attached to them.)

The ron­do way of telling musi­cal ideas is to keep com­ing back to the first idea, or melody. In this ron­do — its full name is Hun­gar­i­an Ron­do for Bas­soon and Orches­tra — we hear a melody, then a new melody, then the first melody, then anoth­er new melody, then the first melody again. Some­times the­se melodies are played by the bas­soon alone, some­times by the orches­tra alone and some­times by bas­soon and orches­tra.

And a fur­ther note “To Par­ents” explains why this par­tic­u­lar work was cho­sen for the series:

…Young People’s Records believes the ron­do to be a good form for children’s lis­ten­ing because it is read­i­ly appar­ent and accept­able. The recur­rence of a basic melody is some­thing the child can eas­i­ly fol­low with­out becom­ing lost in intri­cate prob­lems of design and form. We have cho­sen this par­tic­u­lar ron­do for chil­dren because of the appeal of the bas­soon as an instru­ment.…

Hear Eli Carmen’s Ron­do here: 

Listen to Eli Carmen - Rondo for Bassoon and Orchestra (1949)

For more about Young People’s Records and the Children’s Record Guild, see David Bonner’s 2008 book Rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing Children’s Records and his web site: yprcrg.blogspot.com. The Shel­lackophile has also dig­i­tized and post­ed a num­ber of YPR titles, which you can down­load (thanks to him for the image of the cov­er above, as it’s miss­ing from my disc).


  1. 1920 Unit­ed States Fed­er­al Cen­sus, Brook­lyn Assem­bly Dis­trict 2, Kings, New York (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion, micro­film pub­li­ca­tion T625, roll T625_1146, page 6A). 

  2. Sol Schoen­bach, “Remem­brances of Eli,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/remembrances.html

  3. Mrs. Ivan Kemp­n­er, “Elias Car­men — Farewell,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/carmen.html

  4. Don­ald Mac­Court, “Elias Car­men on Record­ings,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/elias.html

  5. David Bon­ner, Rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing Children’s Records: The Young People’s Records and Children’s Record Guild Series, 1946—1977 (Lan­ham, MD: Scare­crow Press, 2008). 

Klaus Thunemann’s Foray into Jazz

Michael Naura - Vanessa

The vast major­i­ty of peo­ple who have record­ed bas­soon in jazz con­texts have been dou­blers who pri­mar­i­ly play sax­o­phone, such as Illi­nois Jacquet, Frankie Trum­bauer, and Ben Wen­del. A very small num­ber of play­ers (Paul Han­son and Michael Rabi­now­itz are the best known) tru­ly spe­cial­ize in play­ing jazz on the bas­soon. But there is a third cat­e­go­ry as well: orches­tral bas­soon­ists who have occa­sion­al­ly ven­tured into jazz con­texts.

In 1935, Sol Schoen­bach record­ed four tunes by British jazz pianist Regi­nald Foresythe in a small group that also includ­ed Ben­ny Good­man and Gene Kru­pa. Ken­neth Pas­man­ick, long­time prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the Nation­al Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra, played on two albums by gui­tarist Char­lie Byrd. And Manuel Ziegler, prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the New York Phil­har­mon­ic from 1957 to 1981, record­ed a num­ber of albums in the late 1950s with Gun­ther Schuller, the Mod­ern Jazz Soci­ety, and the Mod­ern Jazz Quar­tet.

But one of the most sur­pris­ing (to me, at least) and impres­sive jazz out­ings by an orches­tral bas­soon­ist is Klaus Thune­mann’s appear­ance on Ger­man pianist Michael Naura’s 1975 album Vanes­sa (ECM 1053). Nau­ra and Thune­mann are joined by Wolf­gang Schlüter on marim­ba, Eber­hard Weber on bass, and Joe Nay on drums. Schlüter and Nau­ra worked togeth­er exten­sive­ly, and Weber and Nay col­lab­o­rat­ed with them on a num­ber of albums. But this is Thunemann’s only record­ing with the group, and as far as I can tell, his only jazz record­ing peri­od. On the back cov­er of the album, Nau­ra writes:

…we team up with Klaus Thune­mann, who is solo bas­soon­ist in the ‘North­ern Ger­man Radio Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra’ (NDR), pro­fes­sor at the Han­nover Col­lege of Music, and who plays Schön­berg under Pier­re Boulez equal­ly as com­pelling­ly as he does Vivaldi with the ‘I Musi­ci di Roma.’ I believe it was pre­cise­ly this dis­tance from which Thune­mann has for many years and with inter­est viewed jazz, that pro­vid­ed the stim­u­lus which inspired us when we made this record­ing.

Thune­mann fig­ures promi­nent­ly in three of the album’s six tracks. “Sal­va­tore” opens the album, and at 11:38, is by far the longest tune on the record. It fea­tures a soar­ing, lyri­cal bas­soon melody fol­lowed by two and a half min­utes of impro­vi­sa­tion by Thune­mann. Schlüter takes his turn, then the whole group engages in some very open-ended impro­vi­sa­tion, includ­ing some bas­soon mul­ti­phon­ics. The bas­soon melody returns at the end. “Baboon” begins and ends as a dirty, funky tune in which Thune­mann explores a rough and even some­times growl­ing tone. The mid­dle is a blaz­ing­ly fast group impro­vi­sa­tion that does not include bas­soon. Thune­mann gets a co-writing cred­it on the album’s last tune, “Black Pigeon”. It opens with almost two min­utes of bas­soon impro­vi­sa­tion — much of it com­plete­ly solo. About two min­utes in, it launch­es into a mid-tempo groove, with bas­soon melody and a long marim­ba solo from Schlüter. Thune­mann takes anoth­er solo turn before return­ing to the melody at the end.

All in all, this album con­tains the most exten­sive and impres­sive impro­vi­sa­tion I’ve heard from some­one we think of as a one of the giants of the “legit” bas­soon world. Thune­mann sounds at ease in the ensem­ble, and uses his con­sid­er­able tech­nique to great advan­tage, run­ning all over the horn and engag­ing in extend­ed tech­niques such as mul­ti­phon­ics, growl­ing, and pitch bends. He even, much to my delight, explores realms of tone very dif­fer­ent from what you hear on, say, his well-known record­ing of the Weber Con­cer­to. You can read a more gen­er­al review of the album on the between sound and space blog.

I learned of the exis­tence of this album while work­ing on my dis­ser­ta­tion on the bas­soon in jazz, and includ­ed it my discog­ra­phy. But at the time I wasn’t able to actu­al­ly get my hands on a copy — it hasn’t ever been rere­leased on CD. The first time I heard any of it was when Jolene Masone post­ed one track last year as part of the “Best Bas­soon Week Ever!” series on her blog. That one tune blew me away, and I renewed my search for the album, final­ly snag­ging a copy on eBay.

At this point in the post, I would typ­i­cal­ly include one track trans­ferred from the album. But this time I can do one bet­ter — I man­aged to dig up and post video footage of Thune­mann with the Michael Nau­ra Quin­tet play­ing “Sal­va­tore” at the Kon­gresshalle in Frank­furt am Main, Sep­tem­ber 27, 1974:


Be sure to check out the free impro­vi­sa­tion (includ­ing bas­soon mul­ti­phon­ics), which starts around the 10-minute mark in this live ver­sion. And if that’s not your thing, the band returns to the form around 12:25.

Three Early Weber Recordings

Most of the ear­ly record­ings that fea­ture the bas­soon did so in a com­i­cal fash­ion. A hand­ful of artists record­ed Quentin Ashlyn’s song “The Bas­soon” in the first decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry, and I have in my col­lec­tion a cou­ple of very strange (at least to mod­ern ears) “laugh­ing records” from the same era that include the bas­soon. In 1911, Carl Borg­wald record­ed Julius Fučík’s clas­sic “Der Alte Brumm­bär” in 1911 (released as “Polka Fan­tas­tique” in the U.S.). And in 1918, Edis­on released two some­what sil­ly piccolo/bassoon duets: “The Ele­phant and The Fly” and “The Nightin­gale and the Frog”, both fea­tur­ing Ben­jam­in Kohon, who would lat­er become prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the New York Phil­har­mon­ic. The ear­li­est “seri­ous” bas­soon piece on disc (the ear­li­est that I’ve been able to locate, any­way) was not the Mozart Con­cer­to, as one might guess. Rather, it was Carl Maria von Weber’s Andan­te e Ron­do Ongare­se. In fact, this Roman­tic show­piece was record­ed three sep­a­rate times between 1920 and 1938.

Aside from being his­tor­i­cal curiosi­ties, the­se record­ings give us a glimpse of ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry bas­soon play­ing. And as far as I can tell, none of the­se record­ings have ever been re-released. Below you will find copies of all three, dig­i­tized from discs in my col­lec­tion. I’ve applied a bit of noise reduc­tion and removed the worst of the pops and clicks, but the­se are far from professional-quality trans­fers. I’d rec­om­mend lis­ten­ing to the­se on head­phones or real speak­ers, as they may be a bit dif­fi­cult to hear on lap­top, tablet, or phone speak­ers.

Weber Recordings

The three discs in chrono­log­i­cal order. Click for a larg­er ver­sion.

The first two of the­se were in fact made by the same man: William Gruner, who played bas­soon in the Philadel­phia Orches­tra 1906–1917 and 1929–1951. Gruner was born in Berlin on Jan­u­ary 12, 1883 and arrived in the Unit­ed States aboard the S.S. Deutsch­land in April 1906. He became a U.S. cit­i­zen in 1914, and lived near Philadel­phia until his death in Feb­ru­ary 1971. In the peri­od between his two stints with the Philadel­phia Orches­tra (1917–1929), Gruner worked for the Vic­tor Talk­ing Machine Com­pa­ny, mak­ing numer­ous record­ings with the Vic­tor Orches­tra and numer­ous small­er groups.1

William Gruner

William Gruner, from his 1923
U.S. Pass­port Appli­ca­tion

Gruner and the Vic­tor Orches­tra first record­ed Andan­te e Ron­do Ongare­se in June 1920. They record­ed ten takes over the space of three record­ing ses­sions in Victor’s Cam­den, New Jer­sey stu­dios. The last of the­se, record­ed on June 24th, was issued as “Hun­gar­i­an Fan­tasie” on the B side of Vic­tor 18684, a ten-inch 78rpm disc. The piece was severe­ly cut down to fit this for­mat: it lasts a mere three min­utes and thir­teen sec­onds. (For com­par­ison, com­plete record­ings I have by Milan Turkovic, Nad­i­na Mack­ie Jack­son, and Masahi­to Tanaka clock in at 9:53, 9:02, and 9:20, respec­tive­ly.) After the ini­tial 16 mea­sures of the Andan­te, a two bar orches­tral tran­si­tion launch­es us right into the Ron­do. The Ron­do is a bit more sub­stan­tial, but is miss­ing huge chunks (includ­ing most of that dread­ed last page of 16th-note triplets). The end of the piece has been rewrit­ten, too. Hear it for your­self:

Listen to William Gruner - Andante e Rondo (1920)

When Gruner made this record­ing in 1920, the tech­nol­o­gy involved was quite sim­i­lar to that invent­ed by Thomas Edis­on 43 years ear­lier: the per­form­ers played into a large horn that trans­mit­ted sound waves to a flex­i­ble diaphragm con­nect­ed to a sty­lus that cut the sound direct­ly onto a wax disc. This method pro­duced record­ings with lim­it­ed fre­quen­cy and dynam­ic range and required per­form­ers to crowd around a sin­gle horn to be heard. But in 1925 Vic­tor (and many of their com­peti­tors) adopt­ed a new elec­tri­cal record­ing process that used micro­phones, vac­u­um tube ampli­fiers, and an elec­tro­mag­net­ic record­ing head. This sys­tem allowed for much greater dynam­ic and fre­quen­cy respon­se, and pro­duced a gen­er­al­ly much bet­ter sound­ing record­ing.

Gruner and the Vic­tor Orches­tra returned to the stu­dio on Octo­ber 19, 1926, and record­ed an addi­tion­al five takes of the Weber with the new elec­tri­cal record­ing sys­tem. They used the same pared-down arrange­ment — elec­tri­cal record­ing did noth­ing to mit­i­gate the format’s time con­straints. This new record­ing was released in June 1927 as the B side of Vic­tor 20525, anoth­er ten-inch 78rpm disc. Although Vic­tor didn’t set about re-recording their entire cat­a­log after switch­ing to elec­tri­cal record­ing, this is in instance in which they clear­ly want­ed to re-create an ear­lier disc. The A sides of the two discs are record­ings of Tour­bil­lon (Whirl­wind), a piece for flute and piano by Adolph Krantz, albeit fea­tur­ing dif­fer­ent per­form­ers.2

If you made it all the way through Gruner’s 1920 record­ing, you prob­a­bly don’t need to lis­ten to all of this one. His inter­pre­ta­tion doesn’t change appre­cia­bly, although it is inter­est­ing to hear the dif­fer­ences between the two record­ing process­es.

Listen to William Gruner - Andante e Rondo (1926)
Fernand Oubradous

Fer­nand Oubradous

The French bas­soon­ist Fer­nand Oubradous record­ed Andan­te e Ron­do Ongare­se in Paris in 1938, accom­pa­nied by the Orchestre de la Société des Con­certs du Con­ser­va­toire under the direc­tion of Roger Désormière. Oubradous was born in Paris on Feb­ru­ary 12, 1903. He won his Pre­miere prix from the Paris Con­ser­va­toire in 1923 — after only a sin­gle year of bas­soon study. He played with the Paris Opéra, the Orchestre Lam­oureux, the Orchestre de la Société des Con­certs du Con­ser­va­toire, and the Trio d’Anches de Paris. In addi­tion to Weber’s Andan­te e Ron­do Ongare­se, Oubradous record­ed con­cer­ti by Mozart, Weber, and Bois­mortier and a great deal of cham­ber music. But his first job after grad­u­at­ing from the Con­ser­va­toire was as music direc­tor of the Théâtre de l’Atelier, and he received much acclaim as a con­duc­tor through­out his career. Oubradous died in Paris in Jan­u­ary 1986.3 For more on Oubradous, see the­se two sites (both in French): fernand.oubradous.free.fr and Fer­nand Oubradous — Site de l’association Fou de Bas­son.

Oubradous’s record­ing of the piece is near­ly com­plete, thanks to it being issued on both sides of a twelve-inch 78rpm disc (L’Oiseau-Lyre O.L. 14). This is like­ly attrib­ut­able to the fact that Édi­tions de l’Oiseau-Lyre has always had a more spe­cial­ist and schol­ar­ly focus than more mass-market com­pa­nies like Vic­tor. Side A is the Andan­te, which is just over four min­utes long. The Ron­do (on side B) is slight­ly longer at four min­utes and six­teen sec­onds. The Ron­do had to be cut down a bit to fit; forty-two mea­sures have been excised. This is most­ly most­ly repeat­ed themes and sec­tions of orches­tral inter­ludes, but the entire last state­ment of the ron­do the­me has been removed as well. There’s one oth­er inter­est­ing change: the four mea­sures of quarter-note trills in the mid­dle of the last flashy sec­tion have been tak­en out of the solo part and given to one of the orches­tral bas­soon­ists!

Listen to Fernand Oubradous - Andante et Rondo Hongrois (1938)

It’s clear that record­ing tech­nol­o­gy and disc man­u­fac­ture had improved quite a bit in the 12 years since Gruner’s sec­ond record­ing. The bas­soon is clear­er and more present (the fact that he was play­ing a French bas­soon helps, too), and the orchestra’s sound has far more depth and def­i­n­i­tion. Frankly, the qual­i­ty of the bas­soon play­ing is much high­er, as well. Although this par­tic­u­lar record­ing hasn’t been rere­leased, you can occa­sion­al­ly find Oubradous’s Mozart Con­cer­to on CD on Ama­zon, or as mp3s here.


  1. John Ardoin, The Philadel­phia Orches­tra: A Cen­tu­ry of Music (Philadel­phia: Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1999); William Gruner, Peti­tion for Nat­u­ral­iza­tion, March 20, 1913, Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Peti­tions for the East­ern Dis­trict of Penn­syl­va­nia, 1795–1930 (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion, micro­film series M1522, roll 93), 335; William Gruner, 165–03-6373, Social Secu­ri­ty Death Index, 1935-Current (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Oper­a­tions Inc, 2011); William Gruner, Draft Reg­is­tra­tion Card, Sep­tem­ber 12, 1918, World War I Selec­tive Ser­vice Sys­tem Draft Reg­is­tra­tion Cards, 1917–1918, (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion, micro­film series M1509, roll PA83), 278. 

  2. The ear­lier disc (Vic­tor 18684) fea­tures flutist Arthur Brooke of the Boston Sym­pho­ny, while the per­for­mance on the lat­er disc (Vic­tor 20525) is by Clement Barone, a mem­ber of the Vic­tor Orches­tra and for­mer­ly prin­ci­pal flutist of the Philadel­phia Orches­tra. 

  3. Jean-Pierre Seguin, “Fer­nand Oubradous: A Half-Century of Wood­wind His­to­ry,” trans. Philip Got­tling, The Jour­nal of the
    Inter­na­tion­al Dou­ble Reed Soci­ety
    , no. 14 (1986),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/Journal/JNL14/JNL14.Seg.html

New Wave Bassoon

Mo 45rpm Single  Cover

In my ongo­ing quest to find bas­soons in unex­pect­ed places, I’ve uncov­ered a new gem. The Mo (or some­times sim­ply “Mo”) was a Dutch New Wave band formed in 1979 by broth­ers Clemens and Huub de Lange. The band had a cou­ple of incar­na­tions, but its ini­tial line­up includ­ed singer Heili Helder, drum­mer Harm Bieger, Clemens de Lange on key­boards, and Huub de Lange on key boards and — you guessed it — bas­soon. Huub de Lange appears to be known most­ly as a choral com­poser now; here’s his Choral­Wiki page. I wrote to him ask­ing some ques­tions about the band, but got no respon­se.

A num­ber of the songs on The Mo’s epony­mous 1980 album include bas­soon. But one song in par­tic­u­lar stands out. “Band With Bas­soon” not only includes Huub de Lange’s bas­soon play­ing, but is also self-referentially about a band that uses a bas­soon! “Band With Bas­soon” also appears on a 45rpm sin­gle from the album (the cov­er of the sin­gle can be seen above). Here it is:

Listen to The Mo - Band With Bassoon

I’ve done my best to tran­scribe the lyrics, but there’s a line of two in the third verse that I just can’t quite make out. If you can fig­ure out what she’s singing there, please let me know.

So, guess what we found on the moon
Down in the crater lake
Don’t think our sto­ry is fake
A band with bas­soon

So, can you imag­ine our joy
They cap­tured us with their sound
Know­ing they couldn’t go wrong
The band with bas­soon

Boy, […play­ing a…]
Just a [lit­tle child]
So he said: “Bas­soon band,
You’ll be the star in our land”

Then, we got into the ship
Tak­in’ ‘em back to the earth
And we sang “Bas­soon band,
You’ll be the star in our land”

So, they’re rock­ing the world with their tune
Young kids, they shout for more
They nev­er seen that before
A band with bas­soon

YouTube, that great repos­i­to­ry of for­got­ten cul­ture, has two videos of The Mo in action. Both seem to be tak­en from about twelfth-generation tape copies of TV broad­casts, but they’re still watch­able. The first is a song called “Nan­cy” that fea­tures Huub de Lange rock­ing out front and cen­ter on bas­soon in a shiny bright blue 80s out­fit:

 

There’s no bas­soon play­ing in “Fred Astaire,” but de Lange has his horn at the ready in a stand next to his key­board:

Jazz Bassoon — Graham Lyons

My main area of research in the past few years has been the use of the bas­soon in jazz; in fact, I wrote my dis­ser­ta­tion on the sub­ject. But I’ve thus far neglect­ed writ­ing about it here, most­ly because there’s too much infor­ma­tion to con­dense into a sin­gle blog post! I’ll get around to writ­ing a his­tor­i­cal overview at some point, but for now, suf­fice it to say that there have been hun­dreds of jazz record­ings (close to a thou­sand, actu­al­ly) that include bas­soon­ists in var­i­ous roles, dat­ing back to at least the ear­ly 1920s.

Jazz Bassoon Cover

Today, as a start­ing point, I’m going to write about a recent addi­tion to my own record col­lec­tion: a 45rpm sin­gle enti­tled Jazz Bas­soon. The record was pressed in 1967, and fea­tures Gra­ham Lyons on bas­soon (also, as the cov­er points out, on clar­inet, sax, piano, and as arranger). I often hunt for par­tic­u­lar records; this wasn’t one of those. In fact, even though I’ve assem­bled an exten­sive discog­ra­phy of jazz record­ing ses­sions involv­ing bas­soon, I had exact­ly zero knowl­edge of this disc before it popped up on eBay.

I knew a bit about Gra­ham Lyons him­self, though. Among oth­er things, he record­ed a few tunes on bas­soon, clar­inet, and bari sax with the British trad jazz band The Tem­per­ance Sev­en in the ear­ly 60s. Lyons has led a var­ied career as a per­former, com­poser, and teacher of mul­ti­ple wood­wind instru­ments. One of his recent endeav­ors is the Clar­inéo, a sim­pli­fied plas­tic clar­inet for young play­ers. But this record­ing of his, released on a tiny label (that may in fact have been owned by Lyons him­self), had flown com­plete­ly under my radar.

Jazz Bassoon Record

The A side of this disc is a Lyons orig­i­nal enti­tled “Bas­soono­va.” This tune has been either re-released or re-recorded on a CD col­lec­tion of Lyons’s works, so I won’t post it here. It is, as you’d expect, a bossa nova. Lyons takes a rel­a­tive­ly lengthy solo on bas­soon in addi­tion to play­ing all the parts in sec­tions of four-part bas­soon har­mony and dual clar­inets. All of this is sup­port­ed by a rhythm sec­tion of Lyons again on piano, Rob Rubin on bass, and Bill Eyden on drums.

The B side, Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris,” has a multi-part intro that starts off with two bas­soons over a piano/bass drone. Once the band hits the tune itself, Lyons plays just a bit of the melody on bas­soon before tak­ing a cho­rus and a half worth of solo. He fol­lows this with brief solos on bari sax, clar­inet, and piano. But here, lis­ten for your­self:

Listen to Graham Lyons - I Love Paris

The back side of the sleeve has actu­al notes — rare on 7″ sin­gles, at least in my expe­ri­ence. The­se con­firm what we might guess from the title, that Lyons is with this record try­ing to make the point that the bas­soon can be a viable jazz instru­ment. “I want­ed to show the bas­soon in all its reg­is­ters,” Lyons writes, “the dif­fer­ent ways it could be used, and how it would fit in a jazz set­ting.” He also touch­es on what he sees as the main rea­son the bas­soon hasn’t been used more in jazz: “A tricky phrase which might take fif­teen min­utes to prac­tice and get right on a clar­inet or sax­o­phone is sure to take an hour on the bas­soon.” This is a great addi­tion to my quotes file, and echoes pub­lished com­ments by oth­er jazz bas­soon play­ers like Illi­nois Jacquet and Paul Han­son (more on them anoth­er time).