Stuff Smith

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Stuff Smith
Stuff Smith.jpg
Stuff Smith by William P. Gottlieb
Background information
Birth nameHezekiah Leroy Gordon Smith
Born(1909-08-14)August 14, 1909
Portsmouth, Ohio, U.S.
Died(1967-09-25)September 25, 1967 (aged 58)
Munich, Germany
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, singer
InstrumentsViolin

Hezekiah Leroy Gordon Smith (August 14, 1909 September 25, 1967), better known as Stuff Smith, was an American jazz violinist. He is well known for the song "If You're a Viper" (the original title was "You'se a Viper").

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Violin bowed string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths

The violin, sometimes known as a fiddle, is a wooden string instrument in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family in regular use. Smaller violin-type instruments exist, including the violino piccolo and the kit violin, but these are virtually unused. The violin typically has four strings, usually tuned in perfect fifths with notes G3, D4, A4, E5, and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings, though it can also be played by plucking the strings with the fingers (pizzicato) and by striking the strings with the wooden side of the bow.

If Youre a Viper song

"If You're a Viper" is a jazz song composed by Stuff Smith. It was first recorded by Smith and his Onyx Club Boys in 1936 and released as the b-side to the song "After You've Gone".

Contents

Biography

Smith was, along with Stéphane Grappelli, Michel Warlop, Svend Asmussen and Joe Venuti, one of jazz music's preeminent violinists of the swing era. He was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1909 and studied violin with his father. Smith cited Louis Armstrong as his primary influence and inspiration to play jazz, and like Armstrong, was a vocalist as well as instrumentalist. In the 1920s, he played in Texas as a member of Alphonse Trent's band. After moving to New York City he performed regularly with his sextet at the Onyx Club starting in 1935 and also with Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and later, Sun Ra.

Stéphane Grappelli French jazz violinist

Stéphane Grappelli was a French jazz violinist who founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France with guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1934. It was one of the first all-string jazz bands. He has been called "the grandfather of jazz violinists" and continued playing concerts around the world well into his 80s.

Michel Maurice Armand Warlop was a French classical and jazz violinist professionally active from 1929 to 1947.

Svend Asmussen Danish jazz violinist

Svend Asmussen was a jazz violinist from Denmark, known as "The Fiddling Viking". A Swing style virtuoso, he played and recorded with many of the greats of Jazz, including Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Stephane Grappelli. He played publicly until 2010 when he had a blood clot, his career having spanned eight decades. At the age of 100, he died on 7 February 2017.

After being signed to Vocalion Records in 1936, he had a hit with "I'se a Muggin'" and was billed as Stuff Smith and His Onyx Club Boys. He recorded for Vocalion in 1936, Decca in 1937, and Varsity in 1939–1940.

Vocalion Records American record label

For Decca's Vocalion label, see Disques Vogue

Decca Records US/British record label

Decca Records is a British major record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934 by Lewis, along with American Decca's first president Jack Kapp and later American Decca president Milton Rackmil. In 1937, anticipating Nazi aggression leading to World War II, Lewis sold American Decca and the link between the UK and U.S. Decca labels was broken for several decades. The British label was renowned for its development of recording methods, while the American company developed the concept of cast albums in the musical genre. Both wings are now part of the Universal Music Group, which is owned by Vivendi, a media conglomerate headquartered in Paris, France. The US Decca label was the foundation company that evolved into UMG.

He is featured in several numbers on the Nat King Cole Trio album, After Midnight.

Part of Smith's performance at what is considered the first outdoor jazz festival, the 1938 Carnival of Swing on Randall's Island, turned up unexpectedly on audio engineer William Savory's discs, which were self-recorded off the radio at the time, then long-sequestered. Some newsreel footage survived but no audio of the festival was thought to have survived until the discs were acquired in 2012 by Loren Schoenberg, executive director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. [1] (Access to this reference requires a subscription.)

The Carnival of Swing was a music festival that took place on 29 May 1938 on Randall's Island, New York. It is considered the first outdoor jazz festival. Performing at the concert were twenty-five swing bands including the Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras, and Stuff Smith. Though newsreel footage of the event exists, no audio recordings were thought to have survived until radio recordings known as the Savory Collection were acquired by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

William Alcott Savory, also known as Bill Savory, was an audio engineer known for his extensive private recordings of important jazz musicians in the 1930s, and for his contributions to recording technology. A musician who developed an interest in sound engineering, Savory began building his own recording devices in the mid-1930s. Savory was involved with the team led by Columbia Records engineer William Bachman that succeeded in bringing the first 33⅓ rpm long-playing record albums to market in 1948.

Loren Schoenberg American musician

Loren Schoenberg is a tenor saxophonist, conductor, educator, and jazz historian. He has won two Grammy Awards for Best Album Notes. He is the former Executive Director and currently Senior Scholar of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

Smith was critical of the bebop movement, although his own style represented a transition between swing and bebop. He is credited as being the first violinist to use electric amplification techniques on a violin. He was one of the writers of the song "It's Wonderful" (1938), which was often performed by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald throughout their careers. Smith moved to Copenhagen in 1965, performed actively in Europe, and died in Munich in 1967. He is buried at Klakring Cemetery in Jutland, Denmark.

Bebop style of jazz

Bebop or bop is a style of jazz developed in the early to mid-1940s in the United States, which features songs characterized by a fast tempo, complex chord progressions with rapid chord changes and numerous changes of key, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on a combination of harmonic structure, the use of scales and occasional references to the melody.

Ella Fitzgerald American jazz singer

Ella Jane Fitzgerald was an African-American jazz singer sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

Copenhagen Capital of Denmark

Copenhagen is the capital and most populous city of Denmark. As of July 2018, the city has a population of 777,218. It forms the core of the wider urban area of Copenhagen and the Copenhagen metropolitan area. Copenhagen is situated on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand; another small portion of the city is located on Amager, and it is separated from Malmö, Sweden, by the strait of Øresund. The Øresund Bridge connects the two cities by rail and road.

Stuff Smith is one of the 57 jazz musicians photographed in the 1958 portrait A Great Day in Harlem .

<i>A Great Day in Harlem</i> (photograph) Photograph by Art Kane

A Great Day in Harlem or Harlem 1958 is a black-and-white photograph of 57 jazz musicians in Harlem, New York City. The picture was taken by freelance photographer Art Kane for Esquire magazine on August 12, 1958. The musicians gathered at 17 East 126th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenue. Esquire published the photo in its January 1959 issue.

Discography

As leader

As sideman

With Ella Fitzgerald

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Sun Ra

With others

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Jazz violin use of the violin or electric violin to improvise solo lines in jazz

Jazz violin is the use of the violin or electric violin to improvise solo lines. Early jazz violinists included Eddie South, who played violin with Jimmy Wade's Dixielanders in Chicago; Stuff Smith; Claude "Fiddler" Williams, who played with Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy. Joe Venuti was best known for his work with guitarist Eddie Lang during the 1920s. Georgie Stoll was a jazz violinist who became an orchestra leader and film music director.

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References

  1. "Storied Trove of 1930s Jazz Is Acquired by Museum", by Larry Rohter, The New York Times, August 16, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-16.

Sources