Stuff Smith / Aug 14, 1909 - Sept 25, 1967

I love jazz violin and Stuff Smith was a major one. He came out of the swing era but played a Louie Armstrong-influenced progressive style with beboppers and even with Sun Ra, inspiring many jazz violinists since, including Billy Bang. And he was the first person to use electronic amplification for it.

From Cleveland, Hezekiah Leroy Gordon Smith learned the instrument from his father before studying classical music. At 15 he toured with the Aunt Jemima Revue minstrel show. He played jazz professionally in Dallas starting in '26 and NYC starting in '35 after stints with Jelly Roll Morton and a stay in Buffalo. He had some hit records in the late '30s. (Check out the pot-smoking song "You're A Viper"!)

He played with Coleman Hawkins & Jonah Jones in the '30s, and in the '40s with Charlie Parker and Fats Waller and in the '50s with Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Shirley Horn and others. In Chicago he worked with Sun Ra in an early version of the Arkestra. In the later '50s he was in LA. He spent the last few years of his life living in Europe. He contributed several compositions to the jazz book and was a comic singer as well, sometimes with a parrot on his shoulder.

Tagged: Celebrate Icons, classic albums, jazz, Stuff Smith, Sun Ra, violin

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