I have long wanted to make a blog post about one of my musical heroes, Bill Smith. I first heard him playing with Dave Brubeck. To many clarinetists who play contemporary classical music or "new" music, William O. Smith is pioneer at studying and using extended techniques in his compositions and improvisations.
The words pioneer, artist and innovator are often tossed about lightly these days but I feel that Bill Smith is as true of an example of a pioneer, multi-faceted artist, virtuoso clarinetist, formidable composer, masterful teacher and generous human being as we have amongst us today.
Rather than attempt to explain all of the things that inspire me about Bill's music, I decided it would be best to let Bill speak for himself through his music. I've compiled a playlist of what I'd consider to be a pretty fair sampling of Bill's compositions and clarinet playing since his early days in the late 1940's with the Dave Brubeck Octet to a jazz opera from 2008. I've put some information about the recordings but it's mostly about the music.
- Concerto for Clarinet & Combo: This is another Lester Koenig request that resulted in Bill composing a 3 movement concerto for clarinet and 9 instruments. Recorded in 1957 with Shelly Manne, Bill's writing and playing are masterful on this.
- Concerto for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra with Orchestra USA, Gunther Schuller, cond: This five movement 12-tone piece features an entirely improvised solo part played by Bill. It was recorded by the Orchestra USA led by John Lewis (link pending)