What the amazing Paul Hanson does on bassoon — an exceedingly difficult instrument to play and one almost exclusively associated with classical music — is akin to what other innovators like guitarists Charlie Hunter and Stanley Jordan, banjoist Bela Fleck and bassist Jaco Pastorius have done with their respective instruments. Like those musical revolutionaries, Hanson has created a vibrant new, expansive vocabulary through a combination of virtuosity, vision and soul, as he demonstrates so profoundly on Frolic in the Land of Plenty.
By electrifying his double reed instrument and incorporating elements of bebop, fusion, Indian, ambient and rock-fueled grunge, the Bay Area bassoonist pushes the envelope on what his notoriously unwieldy instrument can do. Violinist Darol Anger of the Turtle Island String Quartet once likened what Hanson does to winning the Kentucky Derby on a camel. That perfectly describes his ability to blow with uncommon fluidity and expressiveness on jazzy fare like “Parallax” and the gently swinging 3/4 number “Sacred Love,” or with such remarkable over-the-barline abandon as he demonstrates on the exotic and slamming “Dark Soul.”
Drummer Dennis Chambers whips up a whirlwind of intensity on “Subtle Demons,” an Indian flavored fusion romp which sounds like a page out of the Shakti book and highlights Hanson emulating an Indian vina with his non-tempered bassoon work. On the blazing fusion vehicle “Emerald Mile,” his electric bassoon flurries on a labyrinth of intricate unisons with violinist Tracy Silverman sound like a wailing electric guitar (Hanson?s scorching solo at the tag sounds more like Steve Vai than any bassoon player you?ve ever heard). And on the fuzz-laden grunge anthem “Scrool,” Hanson and crew summon up the heavy metal assault of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”