Apart from devotees of jazz violin, Hezekiah Leroy Gordon "Stuff" Smith (1909-1967) is almost unknown these days. Which is a great pity, because he was among the first (along with Joe Venuti & Eddie South) to make the violin swing. In the latter half of the 1950s, Verve producer N. Granz put a new set of clothes on Smith -- that's to say, he hooked him up with some modern yet sympatico rhythm sections & let 'em go to town on some familiar standards.
Smith's violin playing is like his singing: full of Louis Armstrong/Louis Prima joie de vive, loaded with blues feeling and an amiable, playful rasp -- he plays with SUCH cleverness it's easy to overlook his tremendous technique and the brilliant audacity of his concise improvisations. The piano trios that accompany him are agile, tasteful and swinging (w/ Horn & Mitchell present, how could they not be?), but this is Stuff's show all the way. Alas, Mr. Smith was, in a way, an odd-man-out for the times: the emergence of Afrocentricity, soul-jazz, the Blue Note sound, bossa nova and the avant-garde left little room for an earthy Swing Era veteran. In 1965, he moved to Europe where he'd spend the rest of his days (going on to play w/ Jean-Luc Ponty), swinging to the end.Grab this Cat
before it disappears again!