Wanted on their first album (Crystal Records CD873) for “low-down playing and bass behavior; the Bassoon Brothers are here Captured (Crystal Records CD875) by ‘oon enthusiasts who can delight in the Brothers’ mission to save the ‘oons from extinction.
The following, written by Head Brother Mark Eubanks, attempts to explain what kind of dementia leads to such an album.
When we were young the bassoon came to us or we came to the bassoon. It was different for each member of the group. For Bob, there were too many drummers in beginning band so the bassoon was offered as an alternative.The sound of the bassoon on TV themes and in cartoons brought Mark to ask to play it. For Bonnie it was presented as the instrument that you are going to play. For Juan it was a long struggle of trying instruments until he found one that fit.
This recording is a reflection of our youth and our first inspired moments of becoming musicians. What was that tall woodwind on the left of the front row in Lawrence Wei k’s orchestra? Would he play it on the polkas? What was the first rock ‘n roll tune that every kid played? Louie Louie, of course. Like every young person, we loved TV, cartoons and the popular music of the day, like the songs of the Beatles and the Temptations, to mention a few. When Jimi Hendrix started doing all those wild things on guitar, it inspired Mark to take up the electric wah-wah bassoon. This recording also reflects the beginning of the group in 1985 when some of the arrangements were bought, borrowed and stolen from others or written for the occasion to get the ball rolling-a practice which set the tone for all future musical endeavors.
The Bassoon Brothers (and sole sister) are now Wanted for their various musical crimes. Theft of musical material from other sources is a
common complaint.The group has been sentenced by some critics for irreverent felonious classical crossover and demeaning the sanctity of the bassoon. Serious bassoonists have shunned the Bros because they have been having too much fun trying to get their message out. One critical bassoonist put it this way, “Shall all my years of serious practice be for nought if this is the future of bassoon music ?”To this person we say “lighten up and get a life.” Regardless, the bassoon is an extraordinary and versatile instrument.
There’s plenty of room for everyone, classical, new age, rock or whatever. But unfortunately, the bassoon and the rest of the ‘oon family are endangered instruments. More players are needed to take up the instrument and that is one part of our mission. Short of that, more fans are needed to keep interest alive in what this versatile woodwind can do. The instrument often dubbed the “clown of the orchestra” can do much more than that, as is shown in this, the Bassoon Brothers’ second recording.
We are introducing the newest member of the ‘oons to our family of instruments, the tenoroon, on Gilbert and Sullivan’s Three Little Maids. The tenoroon had some minor success 150-300 years ago replacing the English horn in some circles. The sound is similar to that of the saxophone. You be the judge. Pitched in F, the instrument is also called a fagottino by its maker, a convenient term that can apply to all high pitched ‘cons. The German word forthe bassoon, das fagott, literally means a “bundle of sticks’: So this is a small bundle, but fun to play. For those young players we hope to encourage to take up the “sticks’;this option is now available. The Guntram Wolf company in Germany offers the”kid version” instrument painted in tiger stripes. They offer an even smaller “octave” bassoon which will also soon be joining our family. So now there is no reason why youngsters can’t take up the instrument.
We wanted to show off the many possible combinations of our family of instruments again on this recording. We have a rather rabid sounding piece called Pigs performed on four contra bassoons. Our normal instrumentation is three bassoons and contrabassoon, but we have a solo for contra bassoon, a bassoon trio, bassoon quartets, and combinations with the tenoroon, soprano and alto sax, oboe and accordion with added drums and guitar. Again the magnificent flatulence and imprecision of an instrument discovered by PDQ Bach is explored.The tromboon (a cross between the bassoon and trombone) appears on Sabre Dance pitched in G rather than the usual Ab by using the contra bassoon crook blown with a bassoon reed. Two selections on the recording are theatre pieces derived from the many Bassoon Brothers’ Halloween and April Fools extravaganzas over the years. In a 1987 arrangement, My Funny Valentine goes together with the Theme from Swan Lake and other familiar excerpts with the Oregon Symphony’s principal oboist Frederick Korman. The reference to “a pretty girl is like a melody” refers to Fred’s costume as his “Aunt Zena’: Zena swished in from the rear of the hall playing the”swan” to finally settle into My Funny Valentine upon reaching the stage.
The tunes from the opera Carmen were featured in another Halloween special years ago where Batman and Robin were guest soloists on dueling accordions. (The accordion probably gets less respect than the bassoon and therefore is a fitting partner.) Batman’s favorite tune is Lady of Spain which he insists on playing to Bizet’s Aragonaise. The Carmen Crusader set combines the Habanera from Carmen and the Tango featured in a great cinematic moment from the movie Scent of a Woman. Featured here is bassist Tommy Thompson from the Oregon Symphony, who has the distinction of having performed on accordion with Pavarotti. Tommy returns later to provide a haunting effect to selections from the Godfather set. He is also involved in a little polka music elsewhere on the recording.
Fanfare for the Common Bassoonist (Fanfare for the Common Man) opens the recording.The Bassoon Brothers were once asked if they played any Copland, and replied “of course’; quickly coming up with this “derangement” which has been a popular audience participation number. Kazoos are provided and the audience encouraged to stomp and clank things for the percussion effects. This works especially well for performances in Portland ‘s award-winning Bridgeport Brew Pub and the Oregon Symphony Chamber Music on Tap series. The Bassoon Brothers’ role in promoting this unusual approach to chamber music was noticed by the Wall Street Journal where an article and picture appeared. (Another recent acknowledgment was when a photo of the Bassoon Brothers appeared as a clue on ABC’s Jeopardy show-answer: “What is a bassoon?”) The Bassoon Brothers were the pioneers of brew pub concerts in Portland. The track entitled Louie Louie, Roll Out the Barrel was written for the first gig many years ago. The audience is encouraged to join us in the chant at the end, with Bridgeport-Bridge-port, etc.
The Beatles’ Hey Jude was stolen from the Taverners Trombone arrangement, with our own twist, featuring the solo contrabassoon and added drums. We pay our respect to the Buddhist Bassoon Quartet and Steve Young with Mexican Hat Dance. Our “new age” arrangement of Rock Etude #10 comes from Bill Douglas and his Boulder Bassoon Band, another important pioneer in bassoondom. Yankee Doodle is from the very talented arranger Don Bartkowiak with special thanks to our sources in Detroit.
The Godfather arrangements were requested for a wedding reception the Bassoon Brothers played at the Adelsheim Vineyards for the owner’s wedding. The accompanying middle track is from the opening of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1, originally written for solo clarinet.The melodic line is reminiscent of the Godfather themes played here by a solo contrabassoon with an accordion bridge to the Godfather Love Theme.
Every Bassoon Brothers’ performance starts with Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette (which was popularized as a theme song for Alfred Hitchcock Presents). This arrangement was provided by Portland’s bassoonist mentor Gordon Solie, and contains two contrabassoon parts and six bassoons.
Showing that the bassoon can play a pizzicato staccato, the Pizzicato Polka by Johann Strauss is in sharp contrast to the “electronic” closing set of the recording. The wacky accompaniments in Sabre Dance and Rock Etude employ computer generated midi tracks of sampled and synthesizer sounds. Purple Haze features an amplified bassoon via pickup and wah-wah pedal using distortion effects. Some may find this sound to be shocking, but it shows what can be done by a twisted mind and some electronic gear.
The final selection Londonderry Air was arranged for the funeral of a truly great spirit, Peggy Lee Mann.
The Bassoon Brothers:
Group members include Mark Bassoon, demented leader and head deranger in charge of decomposition; Captain Bob Bassoon, whose duties include fishing for notes, baiting the group and the complaint department, Juan dah-contra Bassoon, a charter member of Phi Beta Blockers who is in charge of grope therapy; and the Brothers’ sole sister Bonnie Bassoon, who is in charge of reproduction, bookings and bail bonds.
These individuals are also known as the bassoon section of the Oregon Symphony with Juan sentenced to life in a new musical correction facility with in the Atlanta Symphony.
Lineup of Suspects:
Mark Eubanks: bassoon, tenoroon (fagottino), contra bassoon, tromboon, electric wah-wah bassoon, soprano and
alto saxophones, reed, percussion, computer midi tracks
Robert Naglee: bassoon, contrabassoon, reed, bocal, strange uttterances
Juan De Gomar: contra bassoon, bassoon, stranger utterances
Bonnie Fillmore Cox: bassoon,contrabassoon
Frederick Korman: oboe
Tommy Thompson: accordion
Reinhardt Melz: drums
Ted Miller: guitar