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Take Five with Anthony Smith

Anthony Smith By

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About Anthony Smith:
Anthony Smith has been playing piano and vibraphone, as well as various keyboards, professionally for twenty-five years. He has released numerous recordings, worked in a variety of genres, and toured extensively as both a leader and a sideman, with many different projects. His last jazz vibraphone recording, Connections, made it to the top 20 of the national jazz radio charts. His new recording, Play It Forward, Volume One and Two, features a stellar lineup of New York musicians, performing all-original compositions written by Smith. In addition to a busy performing schedule, Smith holds a Masters degree in jazz performance, and is a sought after teacher and clinician.

Influences:
I was initially influenced by the combination of my dad's jazz records, which included everyone from Art Tatum to Miles Davis and Clare Fischer, and also popular R&B groups of the late eighties. Acts like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and DeBarge bridged the harmonic gap between pop and jazz for me, and led me to start writing my own songs. By the time I was eighteen, I was hooked on jazz piano, and studied with some of the Bay Area's finest pianists. I got my hands on every jazz piano record I could, and transcribed solos by many of the masters, from Herbie Hancock to Kenny Barron, Keith Jarrett to Mulgrew Miller. I started doing jazz and pop gigs by the time I was out of high school.

Your sound and approach to music?
I started out on piano, and attempted to play classical music in the early years... but quickly realized I was much more inspired to be creative than to learn music note-for-note. I hung in there with classical music until the second year of my college music program, when I decided to focus on jazz performance and composition. I remember being intensely focused during that period. I was consumed by the desire to develop my abilities to their fullest, and I was very dedicated. I didn't party (much), I didn't get distracted. I worked my ass off, and it paid off. I got busy playing professionally as a jazz pianist in Southern California before I finished college. (The vibraphone came along a bit later for me)

Jazz was the style of music that inspired me to pursue being a professional musician. I've worked in a number of genres over the years, but I always return to my jazz roots, and I always gravitate towards projects that involve creativity and individuality.

My approach to being a bandleader and composer is to put together musicians who complement each other personally and artistically, and who develop a collective sense of chemistry. I prefer organic groups to those that are manufactured or pre-fabricated—and rather than dictate what various players should be doing musically, I believe the best results come from simply bringing together the best combination of artists possible, trusting them, and giving them the freedom to do what they do. After being in music for twenty-five years, I feel I know a thing or two about artists, and I've found that talented individuals produce the best results when they are afforded the creative latitude to work and create in their own, personal way.

Teaching Approach:
My philosophy of teaching music is based first on nurturing creativity and the ability (and courage) to improvise... to make a personal artistic statement. I am more stimulated by a student's passion and sense of adventure than by their inherent talents. I enjoy passing along information, and always find myself learning, and sometimes re-learning, through the process of teaching. I also believe there are a number of ways to learn music, and everyone has their own process for absorbing information. Thus it's important to be flexible as an educator. I'm more excited by a student tapping into their creativity and discovering their own gifts as an improviser or composer, than by technical mastery and flawless execution.

Your Dream Band:
John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Freddie Hubbard: trumpet; Art Farmer: trumpet; Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone; Fred Hersch: piano; Bobby Hutcherson: vibraphone; Larry Young: organ; Jaco Pastorius: bass; Elvin Jones: drums.

Your best or worst experience?
A couple years ago, I wrote a book about all my colorful experiences in music over the years ("The Lizard Stays in the Cage"). Here are a couple funny gig stories from the early days:

Story #1

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Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Jun25Tue
Anthony Smith
3rd & Lindsley
Nashville, TN
Jul18Thu
Anthony Smith
3rd & Lindsley
Nashville, TN

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