Remembering Donald Smith

September 04, 1943 – April 09, 2022

A tribute to the often overlooked singer-keyboardist

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Pianist, singer and flutist Donald Smith passed away on April 9, 2022 at the age of 78.

He was born in Richmond, Virginia on Sept. 4, 1943, the son of gospel singer Lonnie Liston Smith Sr. and the younger brother of keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith Jr.

Donald Smith played piano from an early age, attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and worked regularly in Harlem.

In his career he worked with Art Blakey, Pharoah Sanders, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Benny Carter, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band, Leon Thomas, Gloria Lynne, Lester Bowie, Oliver Lake and Craig Harris among others.

A versatile musician who shifted easily between straight ahead jazz and the avant-garde, Smith was also a fine singer, working with Lonnie Liston Smith’s Cosmic Echoes as a vocalist and flutist on and off starting in 1975.

He never gained much fame despite his talents and only led one album in his career, a trio record (Luv) for the Japanese Whynot label in 1976

Here is Donald Smith at a music festival in Estonia in 2010 singing and playing keyboards on a dramatic solo version of “My One And Only Love.”

-Scott Yanow


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