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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.

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Albums

I Wish I Knew

Lydian Jazz
2020

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Crossing The Bridge 2

Self Produced
2019

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Tea for Two

Self Produced
2015

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Poinciana

From: I Wish I Knew
By Lee Smith

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