Saxophonist, Composer & Educatorclick to share
With a recommendation from Chick Corea, Smith joined Berklee vice-president Gary Burton’s group with bassist Steve Swallow, pianist Makoto Ozone, and drummer Adam Nussbaum, touring the world and recording the album Whiz Kids for ECM. In 1989, when he was twenty-two, Smith signed with Blue Note, which released his album Step by Step. Burton produced the album with a band consisting of John Scofield (guitar), Eddie Gómez (bass), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). Three more albums followed for Blue Note: Peeping Tom (1990), Standards (1991), and Paris (1992). During this period Smith hosted a series of BBC-TV specials called Jazz Types in which he performed with guests such as Tommy Flanagan, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Bobby Watson, Arild Andersen, Hue and Cry, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Smith recorded and toured with Hue and Cry, a duo of brothers Pat and Greg Kane with American vibist Joe Locke, percussionist Trilok Gurtu, and Arild Andersen. Smith also examined classical composition, leading to his first saxophone concerto, Unirsi in Matrimonio, and a suite for saxophone and strings, Un Ecossais a Paris. In 1993, Smith joined the Scottish record label, Linn Records. His albums, Reminiscence (1993), Misty Morning and No Time (1994), Azure (1995, with Jon Christensen, Lars Danielsson and Kenny Wheeler), and Beasts of Scotland (1996) were released. Writing in Playboy magazine, Neil Tesser noted of Beasts of Scotland that “Smith’s artful writing makes the ensemble sound like a petite Philharmonic.” The Sound of Love followed. Recorded in New York City in September 1997 with Kenny Barron (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums), it focused on the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn songbook. Gymnopedie: The Classical Side of Tommy Smith (1998) was recorded with his regular duo partner, classical pianist Murray McLachlan. The disc included music by Satie, Bartok, Grieg, and Chick Corea, and Smith’s Sonatas No. 1 “Hall of Mirrors” and No. 2 “Dreaming With Open Eyes” based on Michael Tucker’s book of the same title. Returning to jazz and to New York the following year, Smith then recorded his final album for Linn, Blue Smith, with John Scofield and his regular rhythm section of bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn.