Pianist Derek Smith dies at 85

Derek Smith

DEREK SMITH, 85, on Aug. 21 in New York City. Born in London, his first professional gig was at age 14 when someone rolled a piano out into the street, and he played for the VE Day celebration in 1945.

As part of the U.K. jazz scene in the early 1950s, he regularly played with John Dankworth, Kenny Graham and Kenny Baker before emigrating to the United States where he became a much-in-demand session musician with studio orchestras. He later worked with Benny Goodman, Connie Kay, Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show band and in a trio with Milt Hinton and Bobby Rosengarden.

Lew Shaw started writing about music as the publicist for the famous Berkshire Music Barn in the 1960s. He joined the West Coast Rag almost thirty years ago and has been a guiding light to this paper through the two name changes since then as we became The Syncopated Times.  47 of his profiles are collected in Jazz Beat: Notes on Classic Jazz. Volume two, containing profiles from 2013-2016 will be available on Amazon soon. He taps his extensive network of connections and friends throughout the traditional jazz world to bring us his Jazz Jottings column every month.

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