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Tommy Smith

Smith grew up in the housing schemes and began his prolific career at 14 when his quartet won Best Band, and he received Best Musician Trophy at the 1981 Edinburgh Jazz Festival. A year later, he was invited to appear on the TV show 'Jazz at the Gateway' with Niels Henning Ørsted Petersen and Jon Christensen; toured with the European Youth Jazz Orchestra, and recorded his quintet for BBC Radio.

At 16, he released his first two albums, Giant Strides and Taking Off! and studied at Berklee with financial assistance from Sean Connery. He joined Gary Burton's quintet after a recommendation from Chick Corea at 18, toured worldwide, and recorded on ECM's album Whiz Kids.

Smith has documented over thirty solo albums for Blue Note, Linn, ECM and his own Spartacus Record label; toured 50+ countries, composed over 300 works, and collaborated with musicians, poets, and visual artists, including Arild Andersen, Scofield, MacCaig, Alan Davie, Kenny Munro, Jaco, Wheeler, DeJohnette, Liz Lochhead, Christine de Luca, Trilok, and poet Edwin Morgan who he developed a unique artistic relationship in 1996 collaborating on 55 works of poetry and music. In 1995 he established the SNJO and ensured its progress until funding began in 1998.

He founded the TSYJO in 2002 to provide an educational opportunity for the country's best young jazz musicians and fought to establish the first full- time jazz course in Scotland. In 2009 Smith was appointed head of Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and became Professor in 2010. Smith holds numerous jazz accolades from BBC, (2) British, (2) UK Parliamentary and (9) Scottish - Jazz Awards.

His contributions to Jazz were recognised nationally when in 1998, he became the youngest-ever recipient of an honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in recognition of his extraordinary artistic achievement. He subsequently received honorary doctorates from Glasgow Caledonian and Edinburgh Universities. In 2019 he was given an OBE for services to Jazz from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


2019 Scottish Jazz Award [Best Band]

2019 OBE for Services to Jazz from Queen Elizabeth II

2017 British Jazz Award [Big Band]

2015 Parliamentary Jazz Award [Educator]

2013 Scottish Jazz Award [Best Live Performance/SNJO] 2013 Honorary Doctorate of Music University of Edinburgh

2012 British Jazz Award [Big Band]

2012 Scottish Jazz Award [Educator] 2012 Scottish Jazz Award [Album 'KARMA']

2011 Scottish Jazz Award [Educator] 2011 Scottish Jazz Award [Big Band]

2011 Parliamentary Jazz Award [Large Ensemble/SNJO]

2009 Scottish Jazz Award [Big Band]

2009 Scottish Jazz Award [Woodwind]

2008 Honorary Doctorate of Letters Caledonian University, Glasgow

2008 Heart of Jazz Award BBC Jazz Awards#2008

2002 The British Jazz Awards [Best Tenor Saxophonist]

2000 Scottish Arts Council [Creative Scotland Award]

2000 Honorary Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland 2000 Honorary Doctorate of the University Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

1996 Arts Foundation/Barclays Bank [Jazz Composition Fellowship Prize]

1996 BT British Jazz Award

1992 Wavendon All Music Awards [Services to Music]

1989 British Jazz Award

1986 BBC National Big Band Competition [Outstanding Musician Award]

1981 Edinburgh Jazz Festival [Best Band]

1981 Edinburgh Jazz Festival [Best Soloist]


Roberto Romeo Saxophone Reeds Aizen Mouthpiece Bill Evans Mouthpiece


Album Review
Extended Analysis
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JOHN SCOFIELD “Tommy is an incredible writer and a great, great player.”

GARY BURTON “Tommy Smith, the most talented tenor sax star to arrive on the world scene in years.”

CHICK COREA “Tommy has a unique sound and approach. I like it from when I first heard him play as a student at Berklee.”

DAVID LIEBMAN “Tommy Smith is one of the best musicians around.”

JACK DeJOHNETTE “One of the important voices in the young tenor players of today.”


LOS ANGELES TIMES “Smith’s soloing… is superb, never more so than in a stunning, utterly solo rendering of Solitude.”

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Primary Instrument

Saxophone, tenor



Willing to teach

Advanced only


Professor of Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Arild Andersen
bass, acoustic
John Coltrane
Jan Garbarek
saxophone, tenor
Stan Getz
saxophone, tenor
Coleman Hawkins
saxophone, tenor
Bobby Wellins
saxophone, tenor




Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Spartacus Records


Embodying the Light

Spartacus Records


Modern Jacobite

Spartacus Records


Scottish National...

Spartacus Records


Whispering of the...

Spartacus Records


Scottish National...

Spartacus Records


Cause and Effect

From: Karma
By Tommy Smith



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