Similar to how the bassoon evolved from many different stages, the ways bassoons are used and written for have also changed.
During the Baroque period, the bassoon was first used to reinforce the bass line and act as the bass for the double reed choir. It was also used to play the basso continuo. Composers such as Boismortier, Corrette, Galliard, Zelenka, Fash, and Telemann, wrote demanding solo and ensemble music for the bassoon by midcentury, but it was still mostly part of the bass line in an orchestra setting.
The use of bassoons in the concert orchestra was sporadic until the late 17th century when the classical era emerged. This was when double reeds began to become more of a standard instrument with their own individualized parts, opposed to just doubling the bass line.
As the difficulty and role changed for the bassoon, so did the ensembles that were common for bassoon.
Ensembles that are more known to have bassoons today are orchestras and wind ensembles, both of which have mostly two bassoons, a contra when needed, and band which usually have two or more bassoons. In addition to the big ensembles some smaller ensembles that contain bassoons are wind quintets, and bassoon duets, trios, quartets, and bassoon bands. In the larger ensembles, bassoons play a role ranging from bass lines, to harmony, to melody, to some solos in orchestral pieces. The bassoon plays a much larger exposed role in the wind quintet, getting more of an independent part whether it is the bass line or the melody. Of course, in bassoon based ensembles, bassoons play all the roles. On the other hand, there is the genre of jazz that few people know bassoonists take part in.
Besides Paul Hanson, another person who has been successful in getting jazz bassoon more known is Ray Pizzi, a writer and performer of jazz on bassoon. He frequently performs in the jazz style in movie scores such as the first Star Wars movie playing in the Cantina band, and in the soundtrack of Predator 2. He has also performed on television commercials and other sound tracks.
People may not know it, but there are many jazz bassoonists out there even though jazz bassoonists are uncommon and sometimes even laughed at. What’s even more uncommon, are rock bassoonists. In the genre of rock music, there was Lindsay Cooper who used the bassoon in art rock band. Henry Cow and Brian Gulland played bassoon in the Medieval-influenced progressive rock band, Gryphon. The two bands were most active during the 1970s. In the 1990s, a bassoonist named Aimee DeFoe played bassoon in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania indie rock band Blogurt. Although jazz bassoonists are rare, rock bassoonists are even rarer and even I don’t know if they’re still a thing. Maybe one day, rock bands will begin to reemerge from the past and bassoonists will try to dabble in playing rock music. Who knows, for now, the use of jazz bassoon has been growing.