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Take Five With Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith BY

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Meet Jonathan Smith:
Portland, Oregon jazz guitarist, playing in the stylistic tradition of Grant Green.


Teachers and/or influences?
Dan Balmer, Bruce Forman, and many other great musicians I've had the good fortune to spend time with. A few special influences are: Ingrid Jensen, Benny Green, Randy Porter, Quincy Davis, and Bucky Pizzarelli.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I have been passionate about music since childhood. I guess I always wanted to be a musician.

Your sound and approach to music:
I love jazz because it is spontaneous and improvised. My approach is to continue learning and playing with other musicians. Composing music is still a fairly new facet of my musicianship, and I draw upon many inspirations when creating a tune.

Your teaching approach:
It's really all about how much you practice.

Your dream band:
There are so many musicians I'd love to play with. I am happy to play with many of the great players in Portland on a regular basis. I think my latest dream band is the Clayton Brothers; all I can say is wow!

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Maybe this is pertinent: after just having discussed the growing topic of bed bugs, mid-solo I glanced down at the stage floor and saw what I thought was, or very well might have been, a bed bug scurrying across. So I went for it.

Favorite venue:
Ch'Boogie Jazz Club in Newport, on the Oregon Coast. This is a great venue, with friendly staff, nice atmosphere and a fantastic listening audience. Oh yeah—the food is amazing, too.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
I really like "Blues for Mandy," it gets great feedback from listeners. I'm told it reminds people of theme from Pink Panther.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Certainly one of the first I remember was Les McCann & Eddie Harris, Swiss Movement. I still love it!

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
A love for jazz, enjoying the journey.

Did you know...
I played saxophone before picking up the guitar.

CDs you are listening to now:
George Benson, It's Uptown; Lee Morgan, Cornbread (Blue Note); Blue Mitchell, The Thing to Do (Blue Note).

Desert Island picks:
Cannonball Adderley, Somethin' Else (Blue Note); Jimmy Heath, Triple Threat (Riverside); Oliver Nelson, Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!); Hank Mobley, Soul Station (Blue Note); Charles Mingus, Changes One (Atlantic).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
It is unfortunate there is not a bigger awareness of jazz in comparison to the commercially produced, mass-marketed music. Jazz lovers will continue to support this music but it is a small audience.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Support live jazz in our communities, buy jazz music, expose our kids to good music.

What is in the near future?
Hopefully lots more gigs upcoming.

By Day:
Musician 24/7.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Firefighter (again). Spent almost 30 years doing this and it was an awesome career.

Photo Credit

Jonathan Smith

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