The Music of “OoN”

by E. "Doc" Smith on February 14, 2014

Two of the Bay Area’s best musicians have joined forces in a most fabulous duet, quite unlike any I have ever heard. A fantastic bassoonist, Paul Hanson first came to my attention while touring with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and performing alongside the legendary Paul McCandless of Oregon and saxophonist Jeff Coffin; their work as a trio simply had to be seen to be believed. No one plays the bassoon like Hanson; his dexterity and marvelous use of effects was nothing short of brilliant. Bassist Ariane Cap is of course no stranger to this writer; as she’s honed her skills at the elbows of bass giants, like the uncanny Victor Wooten of the aforementioned Flecktones, the incomparable Kai Eckhardt, and one of the founders of the Bay Area’s solo bass scene, the one and only Michael Manring. Together, Hanson and Cap have created the duo known as “OoN, a unique blend of fresh sounds at times meditative and peaceful at times passionate, raging and distorted; always groovy always melodic…” Their new album, “Polaris” is an amazing romp that defies categorization, and is guaranteed to both soothe and groove you.

OoN’s website states that “People often say they don’t know what to expect from a bass and bassoon duo. Well, think melodic and groovy music. OoN with its unlikely combination of bass and bassoon creates beautiful melodic Chamber Jazz. Sometimes peaceful and meditative, at other times passionate, raging or groovy, the musical bandwidth these two instrumentalists cover on their respective ‘tools’ is surprising. Utilizing virtuosic and unusual playing techniques as well as effects and harmonizers, the musicians put the song first and musicality front and center.

When Hanson and Cap met they found they had a lot in common: both had just returned from tours from outside the country and found themselves in new and unexpected life situations. They got together initially to ‘just jam’ but were immediately struck by the compatibility of their instruments as well as their similar approaches to playing. Both fans of unusual playing techniques and the use of effects they were both at home taking on various responsibilities of playing, be it accompanying, grooving, soloing or playing melodies. More than anything, however, they found kinship in loving a wide variety of styles of music, from Classical to Jazz, to Rock, Pop, Funk, and Fusion, and for being most concerned with beautiful melodies and accessible and moving grooves. On Polaris, the two do many of their own compositions, but also a Beatles cover and their favorite Jazz standard. They even go on some Jimi Hendrix infused adventures. A fresh and exciting sound that will delight, entertain and uplift you, make sure to expect the unexpected.

As a bassoonist over the last 20 years, Hanson has been one of a select few setting new standards for what is possible on this most classical of woodwind instruments. As one reviewer puts it, “But he simply transcends technique to a point where the listener no longer has in mind that it’s a BASSOON that he’s playing.” From his roots as an award-winning classical bassoonist and jazz saxophonist- Hanson has enjoyed a truly diverse musical career.

As an improvising bassoonist, Hanson has recorded and/or performed with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine, Cirque Du Soleil, David Binney, Dennis Chambers, Zenith Patrol, Billy Childs, Billy Higgins, Ray Charles, Charlie Hunter, Patrice Rushen, Alex Acuna, Abraham Laboriel, Medeski Martin & Wood, Bob Weir’s RATDOG, T. Lavitz from Dixie Dregs, Jeff Coffin, Jeff Sipe, Jonas Hellborg, Afro/Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, Bob Moses, Kai Eckhardt. Paul has lent his bassoon playing to The Klezmorim, St. Josephs Ballet, soloist with Napa Symphony, jazz bassoon soloist with Oakland East Bay Symphony, DAVKA.

As a saxophonist, Hanson has recorded and/or performed with Eddie Money (tenor sax soloist on the 1985 hit song “Take Me Home Tonight”), Boz Scagg, The Temptations, Tower of Power, Steve Smith, Tom Coster, Randy Jackson (pre-American Idol), What It Is, Omar Sosa, dobroist Rob Ickes, Bobby Blue Bland and others.

Cap is an Austrian multi instrumentalist, composer, music educator and bassist (upright, electric, fretless, mini bass), pianist, vocalist and flutist. She has turned out compositions for Karney Music and Sound, Somatone and Wolftrack audio, regularly teaches at the Berkeley Jazz School, The Wyoming Rock Camp Experience (10 years in residence), the Berkeley Jazz Workshop and her own Music School, Step Up Music.

Performing credits include the Celtic Rock Band Tempest, The Kid-punk rock band The Sippy Cups, the African Band The Palmwine Boys, the Guitar Virtuoso Muriel Anderson, the Austrian funk band The Mozart Band and Cirque du Soleil as well as many local Jazz, Wold and Rock/Funk artists. Recently Ariane recorded for star producer Keith Olsen. Current bands include Lara Price’s Girls Got the Blues, an all-star female cast of Bay Area musicians including Janice Maxie-Reid, Pam Hawkins and Annie Sampson, as well as the platinum winning band Generation Esmeralda with Jimmy Goings, who she recently toured Brazil with. Cap is also working on a series of books and educational materials (audio and video) to bring her bass and music theory methods to a wider audience…”

OoN has presented us with a lot of mighty fine music on Polaris; the jaunty “Emerald Mile” is one of my favorites; the eerie “Doldrums Last Days; “Epic Epic” and “Mr. Coffee” are instant gems, to name but a few. I honestly love each and every cut. Here too is a video of one of OoN’s most recent performances, at Berkeley’s Frieght & Salvage.

E. “Doc” Smith is a musician and recording artist with Edgetone Records, who has worked with the likes of Brian Eno, Madonna, Warren Zevon, Mickey Hart and many others. He is also the Arts & Entertainment editor for Beyond Chron and inventor of the musical instrument, the Drummstick.

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