Sara Schoenbeck chamber jazz bassoonist review in Downbeat, concert in Palo Alto May 13

Sara Schoenbeck knew from an early age that she did not want to play bassoon in a symphony, not on a regular basis. Early on, she was much more interested in exploring improvisation and experimental music. She has performed everything from avant-garde jazz to hip-hop and rock to music from India, Ghana and Haiti.

For her self-titled release, Schoenbeck performs duets with nine artists — three free improvisations, three of her originals and three compositions by others.

The opener, “O’Saris,” is a mostly soothing, folkish piece performed with drummer Harris Eisenstadt. “Sand Dune Trilogy” with flutist Nicole Mitchell starts and closes with some energetic interplay, sandwiching a quiet dissonance. “Lullaby” with guitarist Nels Cline becomes a ballad with Schoenbeck’s long tones on bassoon, with a three-note guitar pattern, and background electronics.

The fairly brief “Chordata” is a fiery free improvisation with Roscoe Mitchell on soprano saxophone. It contrasts with pianist Matt Mitchell’s mostly through-composed “Auger Strokes,” which is quietly moody and a bit long. “Absence” with bassist Mark Dresser is a tribute to the late bassoonist Marcuselle Whitfield, alternating between somber and celebration. A fairly peaceful “Anaphoria” with pianist Wayne Horvitz” and a more passionate “Suspend A Bridge” with cellist Peggy Lee are both free improvisations. The intriguing set, generally more peaceful than expected, concludes with the piano and haunting voice of Robin Holcomb on “Sugar.” (Scott Yanow)


Sara Schoenbeck: O’Saris; Sand Dune Trilogy; Lullaby; Chordata; Auger Strokes; Absence; Anaphoria; Suspend A Bridge; Sugar. (58:55)
Personnel: Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon; Harris Eisenstadt, drums; Nicole Mitchell, flute; Nels Cline, guitar, bass; Roscoe Mitchell, soprano saxophone; Matt Mitchell, piano; Mark Dresser, bass; Wayne Horvitz, piano, electronics; Peggy Lee, cello; Robin Holcomb, piano, voice.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
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