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Lee Smith

Lee W. Smith is an American-born bassist. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Leopold and Anne Smith, the younger of two children. He has an older sister, Leanne. Lee has three sons: Lee W Smith, Jr., Tommy Pinkett, and celebrated bass great Christian McBride.

Lee studied trumpet from 5th grade through his freshman year at West Chester University. He played with the school orchestra and band, and with the all city concert band.

While in Overbrook High School, Lee got his first bass guitar, and started learning songs from the radio by ear. He became interested in the bass guitar after hearing James Jamerson on numerous Motown recordings. After strong encouragement from some fellow local musicians, Lee started doing gigs on the weekends while still in school. He performed with a group called the Time Keepers which featured Phillip Harris on drums and Steven Knight on guitar.

Lee’s entire musical history spans well over 40 years. During Lee’s pre-jazz era, he maintained Philly as his home base but toured internationally and recorded with several Philadelphia-based R&B recording artists including the Delphonics, Blue Magic, Brenda and the Tabulations, Major Harris, and Billy Paul. Photo: Lee Smith on Electric Bass Guitar Lee Smith on Electric Bass Guitar.

In the summer of 1977, a high school friend and fellow musician, Alfred Williams, who was working as musical director for legendary Afro-Cuban Percussionist Mongo Santamaria, invited Lee to audition for Mongo’s group. Lee was hired following the audition. This was Lee’s first time playing Latin music and was one of the most challenging musical experiences he had in his career. He later moved to New York and continued working with Mongo for five years. Lee appears on six of Mongo’s albums: Images, Red Hot, Summertime, A La Carte, Montreux Heat, and Grammy-award-winning Dawn (Amanecer). During the five year period with Mongo, Lee toured all over North and South America as well as extensively in Europe.

After Lee’s stint with Mongo, he moved back to the Philadelphia area due to family health issues that required his assistance. Shortly thereafter Lee received a call from jazz pianist Milton Sealy to play at the grand opening of the Trump Plaza casino.

From 1983 to 1989 Lee worked the Atlantic City circuit. This was Lee’s first steady performance of mainstream jazz. He gigged with Milton as a duo and freelanced with other musicians. During this time it was Milton that strongly suggested Lee pick up the acoustic bass. Around 1986, Lee purchased his first upright bass from drummer Wilby Fletcher. The bass belonged to Wilby’s late uncle. That bass is still Lee’s main bass today. Photo: Lee Smith playing Upright Bass.

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Album Review

Susie Meissner: I Wish I Knew

Read "I Wish I Knew" reviewed by Jack Bowers

I wish I knew why the talented Philadelphia-based singer Susie Meissner chose to open her salute to the Great American Songbook with the only tune on the album that doesn't really qualify: Curtis Lewis' “The Great City." It's not a bad song but Cole Porter or Johnny Mandel it ain't. On the bright side, Meissner recovers quickly on the fourth album under her name with a burnished rendition of the title theme, a memorable composition by the legendary Hollywood songwriting ...

Album Review

Susie Meissner: I Wish I Knew

Read "I Wish I Knew" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Over the past decade and three previous recordings, Philadelphia-based vocalist Susie Meissner has crafted an intelligently conceived and thoughtfully paced survey of the Great American Songbook. Meissner's considerations of the standard jazz repertoire, in concert with pianist John Shaddy's sturdy arrangements and educated performance manner, have emerged, evolving from chaste and reverent beginnings, into rich and supple layerings of stylistic and technical outreach with each subsequent recording. Meissner's debut, I'll Remember April (Lydian Jazz, 2009), emerged as a ...

Album Review

Susie Meissner: Tea for Two

Read "Tea for Two" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Natural but determined evolution makes for well conceived and produced projects. Vocalist Susie Meissner has proved this statement as she progressed from her debut recording I'll Remember April (Lydian Jazz, 2009), through her sophomore effort, I'm Confessin' (Lydian Jazz, 2011) to the present Tea for Two. Using a well-worn repertoire, Meissner, mostly with the support of pianist John Shaddy and his regular rhythm section (bassist Lee Smith and drummer Dan Monaghan), has steadily moved from solid, if not predictable, arrangements ...

Extended Analysis

Lee Smith: My Kind of Blues

Read "Lee Smith: My Kind of Blues" reviewed by Victor L. Schermer

After nearly 40 years as a working bassist, Lee Smith has become a jny: Philadelphia legend, playing gig after gig with just about everyone, including the Delphonics, Mongo Santamaria, Dizzy Gillespie, Roland Kirk, Lionel Hampton, and a host of Philadelphians, including Larry McKenna, Tom Lawton, Bootsie Barnes, Odean Pope, and the list goes on and on. In 2012, he released his first album as leader, composer, and arranger, Sittin' on a Secret (Vectordisc, 2012). In a review of that album, ...

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Performance / Tour

Bassist Lee Smith's CD Release Celebration @ Kennett Square Flash!

Bassist Lee Smith's CD Release Celebration @ Kennett Square Flash!

Source: Jim Miller

Appearing at Kennett Flash, 102 Sycamore Alley in Kennett Square, PA, on October 3rd will be bassist Lee Smith and his group. One Show: 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, $5 for students and are available at the door only. For info: 610-745-3011. This is a very special event that celebrates the release of Lee Smith: Sittin' on a Secret, the bassist's first-as-a-leader impressive new CD, featuring six original compositions and his own arrangements. Joining Smith at Kennett Flash will be ...




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