michael rabinowitz jazz bassoon banner

Coco's Jazz Gig Of The Week

Jazz and Michael Rabinowitz at the Dièse Onze

On Saturday Nov. 12th. at Montreal's Dièse Onze, NY bassoonist Michael Rabinowitz will be playing with pianist Eric Harding in a trio format. For some 30 years now, Rabinowitz has been pushing the boundaries of what is known traditionally as a classical music orchestral instrument, exploring deep into improvised sounds and jazz. The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family. Here's a few exchanges I had with Michael.

CT - Michael what do you love about the bassoon? is it the sound, the tone, the range?...tell us about that...

MR - From the time I started playing bassoon at 16 yrs old, I felt the instrument could express a variety of emotions from the comic to the nostalgic. I heard how it was used effectively in movie scores. The range goes below the baritone sax and up into the high range of the tenor sax. The double reed allows it to have a striking staccato and it can jump three octaves easily.

CT - Did you have to invent yourself as a contemporary jazz bassoonist? (in the sense there are very very few jazz bassoonists)

MR - Yes, when I started in the seventies there we doublers that played jazz on bassoon such as Earl Buddel (Australian Jazz Quintet) and Illinois Jacquet but no one that played jazz exclusively on the bassoon. I imitated saxophone, trombone and trumpet players. Eric Dolphy was hero to me because he took the bass clarinet to new places as a jazz instrument. As a beginner there were plenty of doubters but as I improved they started coming around. Now I have built a reputation as one of the few that can play convincing jazz from bebop to free on the instrument. ------------------------------------------------------------ CT - Where does the bassoon fit in the world of jazz? ------------------------------------------------------------ MR - There are many groups that are incorporating classical instruments into jazz ensembles. The Charles Mingus Orchestra which I have been part of for over 15 years comes to mind. It incorporates bassoon, french horn and bass clarinet along with saxes and brass. Another group which I recorded with was a mixture of strings and woodwinds that Chris Potter organized a few years ago. Last year John Clark (jazz french hornist) released a CD called The Odd Couple Quintet with an arrangement of the Mozart French Horn concertos for rhythm section with french horn and bassoon. So composers are looking for different sonorities and wanting a bassoonist that can improvise.

CT - What is the challenge improvising on the bassoon?

MR - Technically it is more difficult than other instruments and the softness can be easily hidden by louder instruments. I have to mic it when I play and I have an electronic pickup that was made specifically for the bassoon.

CT - Do you play other instruments, like other bassoonists?

MR - Not really, I toy around with the alto sax (because I love Charlie Parker so much) and have played piano my entire life which I use as a composition tool.

CT - Tell us about the group you'll be playing with Nov.12th and how you connected with them...

MR - Last year I was hired to play at Upstairs and a student of mine suggested I hire Eric Harding to play piano and select a bassist and drummer. We rehearsed some new material and the performance went very well. I liked the way they supported me and when I planned to come back this year it was logical that I used the same band.

CT - Which other groups do you play with and where can they be heard?

MR - Most of my work is in the NYC area. I can be heard at the Jazz Standard with the Charles Mingus Orchestra. I am excited about the release of a new CD with compositions inspired and as tributes to my father Harold and mother Kiki who died over the last year and half. The CD will be called Unchartered Waters and will be on the Cats Paw Record Label.

CT - What repertoire will you be playing Nov. 12th at the Dièse Onze?

MR - As mentioned above I will be playing compositions that will be on the upcoming CD Unchartered Waters and jazz standards.

CT - If you could play with any artist dead or alive, who would that be?

MR - Charlie Parker

Interview : Claude Thibault
Michael Rabinowitz Jazz Bassoon with the Eric Harding Trio To hear Michael on How Insensitive, it's here
Saturday, Nov. 12th 6pm
Dièse Onze 4115A St-Denis



mike rabinowitz playing jazz bassoon



Mike Rabinowitz fares better, subsuming bassoon discreetly into the fabric of a mellow improvisatory trio on The Four O'Clock Session. He limns melody with pianist Patrick Bebelaar ("Remember Prakash"), drones unison lines with Joe Fonda's bowed bass ("Keep Holding") or leaps about from treble lead to running gruff counterlines ("Scheherazade's Dream"). On his rare steps into full limelight, he opens a quiet "Discussion" then rebuts some arguments; his tart, adenoidal solo leads "Stop Talking"; he skitters along with rakish piano on his own boppy "Now."
Fred Bouchard 2/10

"If you appreciate jazz but don't know what a bassoon is, this album will blow you away. I am a professional bassoonist...Oregon Symphony and Bassoon Brothers Quartet...and Michael is one of the most amazing bassoonists I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. His arrangements are terrific and if you are a jazz enthusiast, you will truly enjoy this recording. It deserves six stars!"
Robert W Naglee- Customer Review of Bassoon on Fire, Amazon.com

Rabinowitz plays this music with confidence and authority...his phrasing is remarkably fluid and rhythmically on target"
Cadence Magazine

"Michael Rabinowitz merits a place in jazz history...he's evolved into an astonishingly forceful presence"
Neil Tesser - Critic's Choice, Chicago Reader

"Other guys have tried jazz bassoon"Shank said of Rabinowitz,"but he really knows how to play."
Bud Shank

"...Ten soloists.battling huge sounds on every side, were adept, and four in particular shone:the trumpeters Soloff and Brecker; Michael Rabinowitz, who played five lyrical choruses of the blues on his bassoon, and Jerome Richardson..."
Whitney Balliett, New Yorker

"He's a hero"
Gunther Schuller

"Epitaph" turns out to be a perfect title since it defines Mingus as an
original synthesis of the past, present and future of music ....
There are solo opportunities for strangers to jazz like the oboe
and bassoon (the latter wielded brilliantly by Michael Rabinowitz in
"Wolverine Blues").”
Richard S. Ginell of Variety Music

"Mingus would have enjoyed working with this superb band, especially the evening's best soloists; Watson, Marsalis, Walrath, Abercrombie, Hicks, Rosenberg and bassoonist Michael Rabinowitz."
The Washington Post