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Take Five With Calvin Mark Smith


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Meet Calvin Mark Smith:

Born and raised in the New England area, Calvin showed an early proclivity for percussion. Although he spent time on other instruments, he always returned to drums. In and out of various genres and bands throughout his life, he finally settled on music production and recording. To this end, he established a production/publishing company—SmithWorks Music.


Drums, keyboards, percussion.

Teachers and/or influences?

Very eclectic taste in music.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I was about six or seven. Started banging on my desk in school with a heel of my palm to knuckle action. Drove my teachers bonkers!

Your sound and approach to music:

Wow, that's a weird question when someone poses it to you. I'd say my approach is a natural expression of what I'm feeling at that moment. I rarely plan out what I'm going to do musically. I sit, I play, there it is. If I like what's happened, I'll leave it as is. If not, I just go back and rework it.

Your teaching approach:

If I were to teach, I think I'd tell the student to feel the music more than learn the music. You have to make it natural—just my opinion.

Your dream band:

Oh man, there are so many. Return to Forever comes to mind almost immediately. Slave for funk, The Police for pop/rock. For some reason Eric Clapton comes to mind with David Bowie or Bobby Caldwell on vocals. Bass would be Stu Hamm I think or maybe Marcus MillerBob James on piano with Gregory Johnson (Cameo) or Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic) on keys. The Tower of Power horn section—now that's a band.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

There was this gig I did with a local band (Boston). I had surgery on my left arm, so I wasn't on the traps. I was out front singing lead on a well known song and forgot the words! A lead man's nightmare/ My mother was in the audience...can you imagine?

Favorite venue:

There was a club in Cambridge, MA—Nightstage. Man, that club was the absolute best for me. The vibe of the place was almost electric. Opened up for Lonnie Liston Smith and Najee back in the '80s there.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Right now, I'd have to say the "Didn't Like That" track off of Minerva Smith's CD, Listen... I just had the chance to really arrange on that track. The rap I put down isn't too bad either!

The first Jazz album I bought was:

It was probably Romantic Warrior—Return To Forever.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Well, I'd have to say I'm having fun doing it and letting my children see how enabling music can be.

CDs you are listening to now:

Mint Condition, From The Mint Factory (Perspective);

Spyro Gyra, Road Scholars (GRP);

Coheed and Cambria, Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness (Columbia Records);

The Police, Outlandos d'Amour (A&M Records);

Return to Forever, Romantic Warrior (Columbia Records).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

In a state . . .

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

More venues to play in—more radio presence—not just on college radio stations or NPR stations.

What is in the near future?

As of right now, I am currently in the studio working with my son, Charles, on his debut CD (he's very excited).

By Day:

I am a "Help Author" . . .

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Musician, period.

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