Smith Dobson

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Jazz musician Smith Dobson was a renowned pianist in the South Bay area of California. Dobson initially received his appreciation of music at a young age via his mother, who sang and taught him harmony…
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Jazz musician Smith Dobson was a renowned pianist in the South Bay area of California. Dobson initially received his appreciation of music at a young age via his mother, who sang and taught him harmony (his father was also musical, playing piano and accordion). After attending San Francisco State University and the University of the Pacific, Dobson honed his piano skills working the Nevada casino circuit. In 1967, Dobson joined the Airmen of Note (a United States Air Force band) which was the official White House Jazz Band, as he recorded with the likes of Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Joe Pass, Arthur Prysock, Clark Terry, Joe Williams, and Nancy Wilson. Dobson then returned back home, where he either played for or recorded with such artists as Woody Shaw, Bud Shank, Frank Rosolino, Freddie Hubbard, Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Henderson, Art Pepper, Richie Cole, Eddie Jefferson, Mark Murphy, and Bobby Hutcherson. In 1981, Dobson founded what would go on to become San Jose, CA's, most successful and longest-running annual jazz concerts, the Jazz Series at Garden City, during which he shared the stage with Stan Getz, Toots Thielmans, and Herb Ellis, among many others. Dobson also performed on his own, as part of a trio (which appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival from 1984 through 1993), and alongside his wife, jazz vocalist Gail Dobson. In addition to appearing on numerous albums by other artists, Dobson also released his own albums -- 1986's Smithzonian, 1988's Live at Garden City, and Sasha Bossa -- and in 1995, he was the featured pianist on arranger Ray Brown's album, Impressions of Point Lobos. Dobson also found time to teach music to others at the University of California (Santa Cruz) and San Jose State University (where he helped form the first San Jose Summer Jazz Camp), and also served on such music boards as the San Jose Jazz Society, the Stanford Jazz Alliance, and the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. On April 20, 2001, Smith Dobson was tragically killed in a car crash while driving home from a performance.