Russell Smith

Biography by

Trumpeter and vocalist Russell Smith came out of the same trumpet-obsessed family as Joe Smith and five other brothers, all of them known to earn money with a trumpet mouthpiece between their lips, as…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Trumpeter and vocalist Russell Smith came out of the same trumpet-obsessed family as Joe Smith and five other brothers, all of them known to earn money with a trumpet mouthpiece between their lips, as had their father and stern mentor Luke Smith, Sr. Not to be mixed up with an Indianapolis bandleader of the same name, the trumpeter Russell Smith is represented by an enormous discography that includes works by some of the greats of classic jazz including Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, and Benny Carter. Smith held the first trumpet position in the Henderson outfit and is considered by many Fletcher fiends to be among that band's greatest brass soloists.

The calendar as well as overlapping collaborative associations provide coincidental links between trumpeter Smith and the previously mentioned bandleader. Both were already professionally active by 1910 and both worked alongside bandleader, vocalist, and composer Noble Sissle, although at different stages of Sissle's career. Trumpeter Smith started out gigging in various Cincinatti theaters, then hit the road with an ensemble known as the Six Musical Spoilers. He soon took root in New York City, gigging with Ford Dabney prior to heading overseas in a group led by Joe Jordan.

Smith was a musician in the 350th Field Artillery Band in France during the first World War, hooking up with Jim Europe's Band in 1919 when white flags were being waved. By the mid-'20s the trumpeter had assumed his position with Henderson, following a four year job in Sissle's Shuffle Along review. The Henderson gig lasted nearly two decades, although Smith also worked with other leaders during this time including Carter and his regular boss' brother Horace Henderson. From 1942 til the middle of that decade Smith mooched off Cab Calloway, then was back with Sissle before retiring to California where he both played and taught music on a part-time basis.