Trumpeter Ian Smith was first active on the Dublin alternative rock/post-punk scene in the 1980s, playing in the Real Wild West. Following his move to London, he switched to free improvisation, performing with the likes of Evan Parker, John Stevens, Maggie Nicols, Lol Coxhill, and Steve Beresford, who produced his first two solo albums. He is an active member of the London Improvisers Orchestra and the Temporary Brass Trio (with Gail Brand and Oren Marshall), and has albums out on Red Toucan and Emanem.
Smith comes from a family of musicians. His grandfather, Chick Smith, performed in various British dance bands starting in the 1930s. His cousin, Jimmy Deuchar, is a pop and jazz session player. Smith began playing trumpet at the age of 15 and has studied with Joe Csibi, Bobby Shew, and Trevor England, and is also a trained bass singer. While in college (at Trinity College, Dublin), Smith had his first experiences as a professional musician, scoring and playing for jingles and TV documentaries. He also guested with local rock bands and eventually joined the Real Wild West in the late '80s. During the next three years, the group appeared at the 1987 Eurorock Festival in Frankfurt, opened concerts for Echo & the Bunnymen and the Pogues in Ireland, and recorded a hit single and a full-length album. Meanwhile, Smith contributed to albums by Luka Bloom and Mick Hanley. Despite (or because of) these activities, the trumpeter grew tired of the rock scene and turned more and more to jazz. Appearances at the 1988 and 1989 Cork International Jazz Festival (alongside saxophonist Richie Cole in the second case) showed he craved something different.
In 1990, he moved to London to start anew. He co-founded the free-form unit Forest and by 1992 was entering free improv circles. He presented a trio (Trian) at the 1993 London Experimental Music Festival. A year later, he took part in a re-formation of Cornelius Cardew's Scratch Orchestra. Brian Godding, Marcio Mattos, Thebe Lipere, and Mark Sanders all appear in various groupings on his first solo CD, Tryst, released in 1997 by the Canadian label Red Toucan. That same year, he was drafted for Lawrence Butch Morris' London Skyscraper tour. This ensemble later evolved into the London Improvisers Orchestra. Daybreak, released by Emanem in 2001, features the Temporary Brass Trio augmented by free improv legends Derek Bailey and Veryan Weston.