"BBC 2 Heart of Jazz" WINNER!
2008 BBC Jazz Awards
Tommy Smith began playing the tenor saxophone in school on a Scottish housing estate near Edinburgh, and was encouraged by his teachers there to develop. It is a matter of record that he was advanced enough to win a place at the prestigious Berklee College of Music by the time he was fifteen.
A massive fund-raising effort, which began in the local community and spread further afield, allowed him to take up that appointment a year later in 1984. In 1986 he was recruited by master vibraphonist Gary Burton for his own band, on a recommendation from Chick Corea, at the age of 18.
At the end of his Boston sojourn, Smith returned to Scotland, and set about establishing himself on a UK jazz scene aged 20.
His first major record was recorded on the Blue Note label and produced by Burton in New York with Eddie Gomez, Jack DeJohnette and John Scofield. This was followed by three more albums. During this period he recorded a series of jazz programmes for the BBC which featured Chick Corea, Tommy Flanagan, Arild Andersen, Bobby Watson, Gary Burton and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
In 1990 he was commissioned by The Scottish Ensemble to write his first saxophone concerto and in ‘91 a suite for saxophone and strings.
In July 1993 Tommy was the Composer in Residence at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival, and wrote a suite of compositions for the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra and Sonata No. 1 for piano and saxophone which was performed by virtuoso pianist Murray McLachlan, and has been published by Camden Music in London.
In 1994 Smith recorded a new suite for Sextet, "Misty Morning and No Time" (Linn AKD 040), inspired by the poetry of one of Scotland’s most distinguished contemporary poets, Norman MacCaig, for Linn Records. Using a selection of his poems as springboards for musical ideas, he created a suite of fourteen works, four of which are wholly composed ensemble pieces.
A major work entitled "Hiroshima" was commissioned in July 1995 by the Orchestra of St. John’s Smith Square which had it’s premiere in Autumn of 1996.
Another new project called "Azure" (Linn AKD 059), featuring Kenny Wheeler, Jon Christensen and Lars Danielsson, toured Europe in Autumn 1995 performing ten new works by Smith inspired by the masterpieces of Miro. This was recorded for Linn Records and released in October 1996.
Tommy Smith won the prestigious The Arts Foundation/Barclays Private Banking Jazz Composition Fellowship which he used to compose three major new works for 1996.
In January 1996 he opened Scotland’s first National Jazz Institute as Director of Music which is part of Strathclyde University in Glasgow. The highly structured course is written by him and will include formal education in Jazz Harmony, Jazz Ear Training, Jazz History, Jazz Piano, Technology and Ensembles.
In Spring 1996 The National Jazz Institute hosted the first "Berklee on the Road" in the UK. This one week course offered an incite to the Afro-American art of Jazz at its highest level.
Smith also teamed up with poet, Edwin Morgan to write a suite of music commissioned by the Glasgow International Jazz Festival entitled "Beasts of Scotland" (Linn AKD 054). This was be recorded by Linn Records with his Sextet and released in May 1996.
Gary Burton and Smith had a celebrated reunion tour in October 1996; they were accompanied by Jon Christensen and Lars Danielsson.
In 1997 Tommy Smith received Commissions from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, The Paragon Ensemble and The Traverse Theatre. 1998 saw the release of "The Sound of Love" (Linn AKD 138), Tommy's tribute to the ballads of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, as well as work on his most recent album "Gymnopedie" (Linn AKD 103) which was released in May 1999. This classical album includes Tommy's arrangements of favourite works by Satie, Grieg and Bartok, as well as the world premiere recording of his own Sonatas for Saxophone & Piano.
Shortly thereafter, Smith had the honour of being Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University's youngest honorary 'Doctor of the University'. He celebrated his fifteenth solo release "Blue Smith" in 1999 featuring John Scofield.
Within this group he melts his beautiful tenor saxophone sound with formidable bassist James Genus (cw/Michael Brecker), herculean pianist Dave Kikoski (cw/Roy Haynes & Bob Berg), and phenomenal drummer Greg Hutchinson (cw/Joshua Redman). This fantastic group swings and grooves with creative hard-core jazz inspired by the blues in its many forms.
THE TOMMY SMITH AMERICAN QUARTET
Tommy Smith - tenor saxophone (Scotland)
Dave Kikoski - piano (USA)
James Genus - bass (USA)
Greg Hutchinson - drums (USA)
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'Soundstaging is excellent in this direct-to-two-track recording.'more >>Gramophone
If there is a jazz dialect appropriate to northern lands, Scotland and Norway in this case, then this sounds like it.more >>Rough Guide
His cultured, elegant sound blends well with John Scofield's multi-textured guitar work.more >>HMV Choice
Smith's looked back to leap forward, and these 11 challenging cuts suggest more to come.more >>Sunday Post
Tommy Smith's new CD Blue Smith is well up to his high standards, with great jazz inspired by the blues. It's out now on Linn Records.more >>Inverness Courier
Powerful yet lyrical works, they offer opportunities for improvisation and Smith employs a jazzman's expressive tone to haunting and thrilling effect.more >>The Herald
Smith dug into his long-aquired jazz resources to reveal yet further depths of authority, with the urge to stretch a tune to its limits tempered by a warmth of feeling and a bluesy sense of communication.more >>Burton Daily Mail
Jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith, along with leading classical concert pianist Murray McLachlan, are superb on Smith's first classical album.more >>Falcon Radio
This is truly wonderful.more >>The List
Superbly played and vividly recorded.more >>The Recorder Magazine
Classical pianist Murray McLachlan enters entirely into the spirit of Smith's art.more >>Crescendo and Jazz Music
Close to an hour of timeless jazz music, performed with depth and distinction.more >>All Music
'Emphasizing ballads, Sound of Love [is] seductive, evocative, lower-the-lights mood music. Smith [plays] from the heart.'more >>The Stage
...world class stuff.more >>The Herald
... the pairing of Tommy Smith's compositional talents with Edwin Morgan's poetry has produced a work that is, let's not get all modest about this, absolutely wonderful.more >>BBC Music Magazine
...the work is very special and reveals Smith to be a master of mood and lyricism. Exquisite on all counts.more >>