[Dixielandjazz] Talented Pianist Paul Smith dies at 91-- Ella Fitzgerald's accompanist, among others
nvickers1 at cox.net
Tue Jul 2 09:01:55 PDT 2013
To: DJML and Musicians and Jazzfans list
From: Norman Vickers, Jazz Society of Pensacola
This obituary from 7-1-13 Los Angeles Times. Paul was a regular at Dick
Gibson's jazz parties when I attended 85-93. We had him at Jazz Society of
Pensacola on a couple of occasions. I'd watch for his appearances on the
East Coast of Florida and then entice him to stop by Pensacola on the way
home. We'd schedule a special event for him. Always, I would need to find
a tennis partner for him on his visit. His major "sin" was drinking diet
Cokes. He neither smoked or drank. Said he'd watched so many of his
colleagues die from smoking, alcohol or drugs that he completely abstained.
As the obit says, he worked in the movie studios on West Coast, including
the piano accompaniment for the Saturday morning cartoons. When he'd play
for the Gibson party, he'd frequently work in some appropriate lick to
illustrate what was happening on the bandstand.
When Ella Fitzgerald appeared in Pensacola at the Saenger Theatre in concert
in 1985, Paul was the pianist. Other performers were guitarist Joe Pass;
Joey Barron, drums; and Keeter Betts, bass. During that event, Ms.
Fitzgerald featured Joe Pass on solo guitar for some numbers, Smith just
played the appropriate music to make Ms. Fitzgerald look great. No solos
for him on that session.
He will be missed! I'm glad I knew/heard him.
>From Los Angeles Times
Paul Smith dies at 91; jazz pianist, arranger, composer
A brilliant soloist and accompanist, Paul Smith worked with diverse talents
such as Ella Fitzgerald, Steve Allen and Sammy Davis Jr.
By Don Heckman
July 1, 2013, 11:04 p.m.
aul-smith-PRDCAS0000609.topic> Paul Smith, a jazz pianist, arranger-composer
and music director for stars such as Sammy Davis Jr., Anita O'Day,
.topic> Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, the Andrews Sisters, Sarah
Vaughan and Rosemary Clooney, has died. He was 91.
Smith died of heart failure Saturday at the Torrance Memorial Medical
Center, publicist Alan Eichler said.
At 6 feet 5, with hands that easily spanned the piano keyboard well beyond
octaves, Smith was an impressive sight on stage. Playing with a versatility
comparable to that of Oscar Peterson and a harmonic richness similar to the
work of Bill Evans, he was both a brilliant soloist and an accompanist who
was highly praised by the many singers with whom he performed.
His initial solo album, "Liquid Sounds," is the first of numerous convincing
examples of his impressive musical skills. Fluent with jazz, classical music
and beyond, he moved from genre to genre with ease.
"Paul was a perfectionist and worked every day to improve his art," said
jazz singer Lyn Stanley, for whom Smith was a mentor, an accompanist and a
close friend. "When you worked with him, he expected the same of you."
For more than 25 years Smith was the pianist and music director for the "The
Steve Allen Comedy Hour." "What Paul Smith does with two hands would
ordinarily take three. He does the impossible," Allen - himself a pianist
and jazz fan - once said.
Smith recorded more than five dozen albums - many of which are still
available - as a leader of his own groups. As a much-favored accompanist, he
recorded with singers and musicians of extraordinarily diverse styles,
ic> Tony Martin, Bing Crosby, Red Skelton, Pat Boone, Nat "King" Cole, Pearl
Bailey and Dizzy Gillespie, among many others. He worked for more than 11
years as a pianist and conductor with Ella Fitzgerald, and four with Sammy
"You know," Smith told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1991, "an accompanist
has to be selfless - he has to put his ego on the shelf and make the
vocalist sound better than she would without him. But with Ella that was no
problem." Their musical relationship was a fulfilling creative experience
for both, with Smith playing on many of Fitzgerald's critically praised,
classic "songbook" albums.
In addition to his far-reaching activities as an accompanist and solo
artist, Smith spent many years as a studio musician, performing and
arranging for film and television scores and a wide range of recordings.
Among many other assignments, he was a staff pianist at
Bros. and NBC, appearing on
54.topic> Dinah Shore's TV variety show for eight years. But, unlike many
musicians, he enjoyed the challenges and the opportunities of studio work.
"I liked the studio work because I could stay at home," he told the Idaho
Statesman in 2006. "I enjoyed the variety of music, not just playing the
same 34 songs every night. Accompanying every kind of singer - jazz,
country, bossa nova - was a lot more fun than sitting in a club every
Smith was also active as a teacher and educator, training established
professionals as well as eager novices. He wrote piano method books,
covering styles reaching from boogie-woogie and bebop to ballads and
Smith was born in San Diego on April 17, 1922. He began studying classical
piano music at 8, had his own band in high school and was still in his teens
when he became a working professional with the Johnny Richards band in 1941.
After playing with a military band led by Ziggy Elman during World War II,
he joined the Les Paul Trio in 1946. Shortly thereafter, he worked with the
Tommy Dorsey Band as a pianist-arranger in 1947-48 before moving to
Hollywood in 1949 and becoming an active studio musician.
"My father told me when I was young," he told The Times in 1994, "that since
I was going to have to work a very long time, choose something I enjoyed and
I'd never have to work a day in my life. I'm 72 and I still enjoy playing."
Smith was an active player until his death. He was scheduled to perform with
his wife, singer and pianist Annette Warren, at Catalina Bar & Grill jazz
club in mid-July.
For the past four years, Smith and Warren toured with a show titled "A
Marriage of Music and Mirth." They also recorded several albums together,
including the appropriately titled "His and Hers."
Besides his wife of 54 years, Smith is survived by their daughter, actress
Lauri Johnson, sons Gary and Paul, eight grandchildren and two
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