Willie Smith (saxophonist, 1910)

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Willie Smith in the mid 1940s.
Photography by William P. Gottlieb .

William McLeish Smith , shortly Willie Smith (* 25. November 1910 in Charleston , South Carolina ; † 7. March 1967 in Los Angeles ) was a jazz - saxophonist .

Live and act

Willie Smith led the much-admired saxophone section of Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra from 1929 to 1942 , the perfect saxophone section for the great swing big bands of the 1930s and 1940s. In 1944 he played a 78 under his own name for Black & White ("Bugle Call Rag"). Also famous are his performances in 1945 at the “ Jazz at the Philharmonic ” concerts in 1945/46, where he heated up the audience with furious solos with Gene Krupa and Hank Jones, among others .

In the 1950s he temporarily replaced Johnny Hodges in the Duke Ellington Orchestra and then played for a long time in the Harry James Big Band. Smith is one of the "big three" swing alto saxophonists along with Hodges and Benny Carter and was known for his ballads and blues (such as Blues in the Night with Jimmie Lunceford ) as well as for his wildly swinging up-tempo pieces (such as I Found a New Baby , 1945, with André Previn , piano). In the mid-1940s (and later again in 1955/56 on King's brief return to jazz) he played with Nat King Cole on piano titles such as Airiness à la Nat and The Way You Look Tonight (1946).

The studio recordings for Capitol 1955 (Session at Midnight) with Sweets Edison and Benny Carter offer some of the sound examples of his later career that are most characteristic of his style . In soulful ballads as well as in fast pieces, fans and critics like Joachim-Ernst Behrendt always felt Smith's exuberant temperament, wild originality and his sometimes impatient musical power, which often enough burst the boundaries of form and harmony.

Discographic notes

Web links

supporting documents

  1. Joachim Ernst Berendt : The Jazz Book: From Rag to Rock; Development, elements, musicians, singers, combos, big bands. Krüger, Frankfurt am Main 1976, p. 208.