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August 12, 2005

Jazz Guitarist Keith Smith

Written by
cindy mcleod

Canadian jazz guitarist/composer Keith Smith got his start in Toronto in the late sixties with the late great Ronnie Hedland, playing in some of the more infamous jazz clubs and doing jobbing gigs around town. After moving to Antigonish in ’88, he resumed his music career after a 12 year hiatus in the 70’s, when he quit to to run a machine shop among other things, and in the nineties, moved his family to Calgary. We are happy to have him, he’s a great player and a true gentleman, and although I’ve worked with him on many occasions in the jazz idiom, Keith is a musician that crosses into other genres regularly and with great ease. As a finger-style acoustic guitarist, Keith is much in demand in the folk and celtic genres, calling himself a closet folkie, perhaps its his roots in the east that lend to his complete understanding of all these and the jazz music art forms.

Keith tells me some of his favourite gigs are with vocalists, and from my perspective, he offers what every vocalist could ever want from a player, sensitivity, clean and crisp lines, strong harmonic sense� and he knows the melodies! He is a unique and original voice on the stage that adds dimension to any musical endeavour, and often takes you places you never thought of going musically because he dares to be different.

I met Keith when he was working with one of my all time favourite Canadian vocalists, Diane Miller, who is known for her discerning taste when it comes to players. Diane always raved about Keith, and when I finally got the chance to share the stage with him, I could see why. Keith is the consummate professional, has a large bank of musical knowledge and big ears, these things combined offer a comfort level for the other musicians sharing the stage, especially vocalists, who must deliver both the melody and the lyric with equal intensity. It’s a beautiful thing when one can work with a musician that can give you what you want from a composition, but also will contribute musical ideas that are for you and you alone, daring you to step out into musical space you’ve never been before. From the first moment you feel as though you’ve worked with Keith for a thousand years, so deep is his connection with you.

Of late Keith has been working on his Latin chops, learning the beautiful flamenco style and developing his already vast repertoire of other Brazilian and Latin American styles on his nylon string guitar, and although he is technically very proficient at the blazing tempos and demanding nature of these art forms, I particularly love his long, languid interpretations of the ballads, full of emotion and mood. He is quick to share his enthusiasm and discoveries of artists, we like to trade CD’s to listen to when we discover new (to our ears) music. He has also stepped into the recording foray, running a small in home studio, and is busy producing recordings for new and seasoned musicians.

Keith is also very much a contributor to the scene, I will always cherish the fact that Keith visited Richard Cowie (jazz aficionado) in the hospital during his last days, and know that it touched Richard deeply to be remembered and supported during that difficult time by this special man. This was during the time that Keith was busy caring for his now much loved late wife and being super-dad to his kids, who have since grown and are living successful lives of their own.

I recommend you visit Keith�s website and listen to the tracks he’s posted there, you can get a strong sense of the value of his contributions and the beauty of his playing.

http://www.keithsmith.ca (His site is in the links to the right under jazz artists)

We are very lucky to have this fine musician in our midst, and although he is very humble, I can sing his praises!

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