Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Warren Smith

Crossing Borders & Playing with Pioneers: My Life in Music is Warren Smith’s aptly titled autobiography published by Giant Steps Press and due out on the Fall of 2021. Jazz drummer, conservatory trained percussionist, founding member of the percussion ensemble M’Boom, composer, arranger, bandleader, Loft Era proprietor of Studio WIS and among the first generation of jazz educators at the university level, Smith is also a marvelous raconteur. He weaves hilarious anecdotes and insider information into a larger narrative about contemporary music, its giants and historical events with which he comes into contact over seven decades.

In “Part One, Sweet Home, Chicago,” Smith recounts his birth in 1934 during the Great Depression, his loving musical family and his growing up in a segregated Chicago amidst bombs tossed at Black homes, like his, located at a geographical border. In a voice humorous, earthy and insightful, he re-creates the 1930s and 40s and his musical apprenticeships with the family band, his high school concert and marching bands and his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana with Paul Price’s percussion ensemble and avant-garde composer Harry Partch’s residency. Nevertheless, he’s told by his instructors that there is no room for a Negro in classical music or on Broadway and that jazz is considered too unsophisticated for study at the college level. 

However, “Part Two, New York City: Jazz Mecca” reveals Smith’s uncanny good fortune in being at the right place at the right time with the right musical gifts. After a summer fellowship at Tanglewood, he receives a scholarship from the Manhattan School of Music. He marries his childhood sweetheart Mary. They move to the Big Apple where he graduates with a Master’s degree in percussion a year later and finds employment on Broadway in the highly coveted percussion chair for West Side Story. The only Black musician in the orchestra pit, he then tours the States with the show for eighteen months as the drummer and section leader. The score by Leonard Bernstein is the most challenging of the fifty Broadway and off-Broadway shows he will play over the next forty years, and it leads to performing with musical pioneers like Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae, Lloyd Price, Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones and Joe Zawinul, among others. He forms his own band, Composer’s Workshop Ensemble, which he keeps together to this day. 

A master improviser and reader on all of the standard orchestral percussion instruments and the drum set, his work in the recording studio soon shifts from playing jingles to playing with John Cage, George Russell, Anthony Braxton, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, Van Morrison, The Fugs, The Last Poets, Roberta Flack, Judy Collins, Elvin Jones, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Julius Hemphill, Count Basie and others spanning over 3,000 recording dates. He opens Studio WIS in 1967 as a performance and rehearsal space, one of the longest running and most respected of the Loft Era. 

As for education, after getting kicked out of the high school music room for daring to improvise on an idea, he becomes a music teacher for New York’s Board of Ed in 1959. Ten years later, he chairs the Black Studies department and teaches music at Adelphi University. He leaves the program two years later to join the faculty of Ken McIntyre’s African American music and performing arts program at SUNY/Old Westbury, the first of its kind in the USA, where he teaches for the next 25 years.

In “Part Three: Touring the World” Smith becomes the musical director for Janis Joplin and tours Europe with her band, an experience he follows up with many more tours of Europe, Asia and Africa—with the Negro Ensemble Company, Sam Rivers, Tony Williams, Gil Evans, Muhal Richard Abrams and M’Boom, the percussion ensemble created by pioneer Max Roach which Smith considers his greatest achievement. He joins the Mercer-led Duke Ellington band and plays with them for seven years. Still quite active in the music scene at 88 and an inspiration to younger musicians, Smith ends his memoir with a celebration of his family of five daughters and their children that brings readers back to Chicago’s South Side and the enduring values of family and legacy in the pursuit of crossing borders and playing with pioneers.

email

Books

Please click the covers to get more information and to purchase:

Warren Smith’s Band

Composers Workshop Ensemble

Warren Smith And Composer’s Workshop Ensemble

Strata-East

Avant-garde Jazz, Free Jazz

1973

Folks Song

Warren Smith And Composer’s Workshop Ensemble

Baystate

Free Jazz

1978

Cricket Song-Poem

Warren Smith And The Composer’s Workshop Ensemble

Miff Music Company

Free Jazz, Soul-Jazz

1982

Old News Borrowed Blues

Warren Smith,  Composer’s Workshop Ensemble

Engine Studios

Free Improvisation

2009

Solo Albums

Studio WIS 20th Anniversary Concert

 Warren Smith

Miff Music Company

Free Jazz

1988

Peru Dream Sequence

 Warren Smith

Miff Music Company

Avant-garde Jazz

1990

Cats Are Stealing My $hit

Warren Smith

Mapleshade Records

Jazz

1998

Race Cards

Warren Smith

Freedom Art

Avant-garde Jazz

2003

Natural Cultural Forces

Warren Smith

Engine Studios

Avant-garde Jazz

2007

Dragon Dave Meets Prince Black Knight from the Darkside of the Moon

Warren Smith

Porter Records

Free Jazz, Soul-Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Spoken Word, Non-Music

2011

Partnered Albums

Ain’t That Loving You Baby/Birds

The Original Prophets

Producer: Warren Smith and Richard Elderson

CIA

Jazz, Funk / Soul, Blues, Pop, Folk, World, & Country

1966

Family Man

Jaki Byard 

Muse Records

Jazz

1979

Passage to Music

David S. Ware Trio ‎

Silkheart

Free Jazz

1988

Untempered Trio

Bill ColeWarren SmithJoe Daley

Shadrack

Free Improvisation, Avant-garde Jazz

1992

Chile New York

Julius A Hemphill / Warren Smith

Black Saint

Free Improvisation

1998

Heaven Help Us All [info]

Claire Daly with Solar: Vibraphone, Percussion, Guest – Warren Smith

Daly Bread Records

Jazz

2004

The Dogon Duo

Andrew Lamb (2) & Warren Smith 

Engine Studios

Avant-garde Jazz, Free Jazz

2005

Double Diploid

Steve Swell – David Taylor Quartet

CIMP

Free Jazz

2007

Proverbs For Sam

Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble: Percussion, Marimba, Voice, Whistle – Warren Smith

Boxholder Records

Free Improvisation

2008

Tribute to Albert Ayler Live at the Dynamo

Joe McPhee / Roy Campbell / William Parker / Warren Smith

Marge

Free Jazz

2009

Parrhesia [info]

Stephen Haynes: Drums, Percussion, Marimba, Voice – Warren Smith

Music By – Morris*, Haynes*, Smith*

Engine Studios

Free Improvisation

2010

Universal Sounds [info]

Odean Pope: Drums, Percussion, Timpani, Vocals – Warren Smith

Porter Records

Free Jazz

2011

Odd Time

Eugene Chadbourne & Warren Smith 

Engine Studios

Jazz, Rock, Folk, World, & Country: Bluegrass, Free Improvisation, Experimental

2011

Honeymoon On Saturn

Andrew Lamb Trio

Track 4: The Call Of Love’s True NameGlockenspiel [Solo] – Warren Smith

CIMP

Contemporary Jazz

2012

Creative Music For 3 Bass Saxophones

Scott Robinson Vinny GoliaJ.D.ParranWarren Smith 

ScienSonic

Contemporary Jazz

2012

Musical Blessing

Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre Quartet

CIMP

Contemporary Jazz

2013

The Tuba Trio Chronicles

Joseph Daley*, Warren SmithScott Robinson

JoDaMusic

Free Jazz

2015

The Hues of Destiny

Andrew Lamb Trio

CIMP

Jazz

2016

The Sea Of Modicum

Andrew LambWarren SmithArkadijus Gotesmanas

NoBuisness Records

Free Jazz

2017

Live In New York, 2010

David S. Ware Trio 

AUM Fidelity

Free Jazz

2017

The Balance (Vision Festival XV+)

David S. Ware Trio ‎

AUM Fidelity

Free Jazz, Free Improvisation

2018

The Spell: The Vincent Chancey Trio Live, 1987

Vincent Chancey / Wilber Morris / Warren Smith 

NoBuisness Records

Free Jazz

2020

Try A Little Tenderness

Emme KempJohn Dooley Warren Smith

No Label

Jazz

Featured

Jazz of the Seventies: Una Muy Bonita

Sam Rivers Tuba Trio* with Joe Daley & Warren Smith / Earl Cross Sextet with Jimmy Vass*, Daoud HaroonRonnie BoykinsJuma SultanRoger Blank / J.L. March

Circle Records

Free Jazz

1977

The Art of the Ballad

Track 6: Descent Into Kangnung –Warren Smith

Mapleshade Records

Bop, Avant-garde Jazz, Fusion

1999

East Of Broadway: A Benefit For Fourth Arts Block

Track 17: Ten Thousand Things –Warren Smith

Self- Released

Classical, Folk, World, & Country, Jazz, Pop, Rock

2005

Conversations

William Parker

Track 42- Warren Smith

Rogueart

Interview

2011

The Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note [info]

Julius Hemphill

Track 5-1 to 5-7-Warren Smith

Black Saint

Jazz

2012

Forward Festival 2017 Mixtape

Track 7: Mirage – Andrew Lamb (2) & Warren Smith

Forward Festival

Electronic, Free Improvisation, Free Jazz, Modern Classical

2017

Singles & EPs

Kaiko / Saiun

Warren Smith & Masami Nakagawa

RCA

Free Jazz, Free Improvisation

1977

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close