This artist's movement around the American countryside is easily compared to the fluid action of a trombone's slide when properly lubricated. The clumsiness of the image is acceptable since Warren Smith was fortunate enough to earn his living playing trombone. Discographical mistaken identity with other performers in jazz named Warren Smith is a small stumbling block in the distant future, he is thus comfortably linked to diverse scenes in distinct sections of the United States, emerging as one of Harrison's Texans in the '20s yet able to relax on the West Coast in the company of Red Nichols in the '60s.
Smith accomplished this much by playing professionally right up to the day of his death. In between the previously described associations there was a long spell in the big band of Abe Lyman, work with vocal music crooner Bob Crosby, even a stint in the Duke Ellington band. The trombonist's father was a multi-instrumentalist and taught Smith the same skills: he began on piano at the ripe age of seven, then learned both cornet and saxophone before finally choosing trombone as a primary instrument. Discographies hint at occasional employment on tenor saxophone and in actuality he played both horns in initial rovings with Harrison's Texans. By his move eastward to Indianapolis in the second half of the '30s, Smith's résumé included a half-dozen years with Lyman. He finished out the decade with Crosby's outfit, was back with Lyman for a minute, then turned into a regular on the Chicago jazz scene -- undoubtedly a good move as the nightlife scene in Indianapolis was beginning to crumble.
Solid mainstream jazz credentials emerge from the Windy City period including associations with bandleaders such as Bud Jacobson and Bob Scobey, continuing to accumulate in a sunnier climate by 1945, the slippery Smith now a West Coast resident in bands with Jess Stacy, Lu Watters, and others. The trombonist toured with Ellington in the summer of 1955 and spent three years with Joe Darensbourg beginning in 1957. Then came what turned out to be two of his finest musical associations in terms of no-nonsense swing, a stint with organist Wild Bill Davison and the final set of rallies with Nichols, rumored to include mammoth saki-drinking sessions during a Japanese tour in 1964.