23 November 2016

Stuff Smith

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"He could out-swing all of his competitors"

Hezekiah Leroy Gordon Smith (August 14, 1909 – September 25, 1967), better known as Stuff Smith, was one of jazz music's preeminent violinists of the swing era.  He was also the first violinist to use electric amplification.

Born in Portsmouth, Ohio, Smith studied violin with his father. Influenced by Louis Armstrong, Smith took up both jazz music and singing, performing in Alphonse Trent's band in the  1920s. Smith was signed to Vocalion Records in 1936, and billed as Stuff Smith and His Onyx Club Boys.

Although Smith was critical of the bebop movement, his own style represented a transition between swing and bebop.  Many of his fans said he could out-swing all of his competitors, and he certainly was a force to be reckoned with on the bandstand. 

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.

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