Jimmy Smith Tribute Page
Passed away 21st June 2007
22/06/07 - I was away yesterday, and came home to a sad message from Derek Brown (bs) that trombonist Jimmy Smith had now passed away. I guess it hasn't come to a surprise to many of us, but nevertheless it still comes as a shock. Jimmy was one of the north’s leading trombonists during the trad boom of the sixties. He was a life long pal of the great Roy Williams, and played with him and many other great jazzmen i.e. George Chisholm, Stephen Grappelli, etc. He had also played in New Orleans with several local bands. Derek went to see Jimmy about a week ago, and he tells me that Jimmy was semi conscious, but when he was able to communicate, he passed on this message, "Wish everybody, Good Night, God Bless". Our sympathy goes out to Jimmy's partner Kath, and to his family. - (News item - Fred Burnett)
Dear Fred I was very sorry to hear about Jimmy's passing, but most of us were - nevertheless - prepared for it, I suppose. I was fairly sure that he was the Jimmy Smith I knew from Dizzy Burton's Jazz Aces in the late 50s/early 60s. I knew him, not as a close friend or colleague, but played with him briefly and always enjoyed his playing. I was too young and "green" then for him to have appreciated my playing; I had it all to learn. The fact that you said he was a life-long pal of Roy Williams confirms the Aces connection. When Roy was on trombone with the Jazz Aces, Jimmy was then on piano, before Roy was called up for National Service. It is a curious role-reversal fact that, at about that time, Roy played Modern Jazz piano and guitar during the intervals at the Thatched House, while already playing with his excellent trombone technique the remainder of the sessions.
I can only remember Jimmy as a pianist, from when I first sat in with the band at the Thatched on a Saturday evening in 1959 and for months later, but the late Alan Stevens's many Manchester Evening News articles about local Jazz musicians, frequently mentioned his versatility of doubling on the piano, as he did regarding Roy's doubling skills.
Although I was deeply moved when I read the following phrase which you quoted, on reflection, it takes a brave soul to say "Wish everybody good-night ... God bless" - a clear indicator of the measure of the man in his final hour. May he be in line for that self-generated blessing too. If you have any way to convey my condolences to Kath and any of his family, I would be grateful.
The Jimmy Smith I knew
Although I had been active on the north Manchester Jazz Scene since about 1980, surprisingly twenty years would pass before I made the acquaintance of Jimmy Smith. It happened at a Burnley Mechanics Sunday lunch-time session. I was "on stage" with Jim Wilkes when up stepped this trombone player, asking if he could sit in. Jim Wilkes knew him, but at the time I did not. I was sufficiently taken with his playing so that, when he subsequently asked if I wanted to join a Band that he was forming, I had no hesitation in taking up his offer. When we had our first get-together, I found that I was in the company of such luminaries as Ian Royle, Howard Murray, Grant Taylor, Derek Brown and Mike Reddin, some of whom I had played with before, others were to me new faces.
Jimmy outlined his vision - to form a band using musicians "hand-picked" (Jimmy's words) from the local pro and semi-pro jazz scene. A medium term objective was to produce a professionally recorded CD which would showcase the musicians in the band, as well as Jimmy's own song-writing talents. To this end, it was decided that we would rehearse and then get a few live gigs under our belts. The band was to be called the "Northern Jazz All-Stars". With that line-up, the sound was bound to be great, the highlight for me being when, at Bolton Cricket Club, one of our regular venues, the guest was Jimmy's long time friend Roy Williams. A sell-out as you can imagine.
Jimmy's vision of a CD was realised in October 2002, courtesy of PEK Records, the highlight of the CD being Jimmy's own composition "King of the Blues". Jimmy then fell victim to the bane of all bandleaders, namely the difficulty of keeping a Band together without the guarantee of regular work, or a residency. One by one the lads drifted away, and Jimmy, overtaken by failing health, reluctantly decided to call it a day.
Proud of our CD, my own promos disappeared rapidly to family and friends - one finishing up in New York at a friend of my daughter, another with a nephew in Sweden - such that I made regular visits to the house to replenish my stock. As these visits were sometimes months apart, I could see with some dismay that the passage of time and the worsening of his illness were taking their toll.
I deeply regret not being able to attend Jimmy's funeral, if only to have said my own personal "Good night, God bless".
I first met James Christopher Smith around 1956 and together with Alan Walton, trumpet, Rick Childs drums and me on clarinet. Jim on trombone. We started a band in Farnworth and rehearsed in a pub on Market Street. Sunday mornings of all times. We were all apprentices then. Jimmy an apprentice joiner, Alan an
apprentice plumber, Rick apprentice bricklayer. We even had a "tea chest" base!!!. I cannot
remember the banjo player.
Roy was an apprentice also, but was already with Eric Batty or Dizzy I am not sure which. (You will have to forgive an old memory)
We had a limited list of numbers and we even did a few gigs in local schools and churches with the spirituals etc. One gig I can remember well was at Plodder Lane Conservative Club were we went down brilliantly until we played Maryland!!
Jim was at my wedding 60 years ago next June and my wife and I were also at his wedding. Then came National Service and things all split up.
Living in the area for part of the year, I met up a few times over the years both at Bolton Cricket Club and Eagley Jazz club. It was always good to have a reminisce and a pint or two!!
I was back in UK and managed to get to Jimmy's funeral service. It was one of the most moving I have been to especially the CD King of the Blues. I was not able to get to the Cricket Club, but I believe he had a great send off!!.
The memories of it will last for a long time yet, I hope.
A Tribute from Jimmy's children
Jimmy's daughters Julie and Paula and on behalf of our brother Paul would like to pay tribute to our dad.
We have always thought our dad was a special person, extremely gifted with music/lyrics and words. Our dad always played the piano and keyboard although his first love was the trombone.
We have been listening to lots of his music lately and reminiscing. In the eighties he wrote the music for a production 'THE CHILDREN OF THE UNIVERSE' which was fantastic, we remember going to watch the show, a song called 'Destiny' is especially beautiful. He wrote songs for Bolton Wanderers Football Team, 'The Superrwhites' and 'The Lion Of Vienna'. We recall a song he wrote when we were young called 'Two Sides To A Penny', but we have not come across the music for this as yet. He also co-wrote The Blackpool Belle with his long time friend Howard Broadbent. 'Mr Skylark' we have yet to hear when it is put on a C. D. We were lucky to be present at the brilliant Northern Jazz Allstars venue when Roy Williams made an appearance, a night we will always remember. The C.D 'Thats A Plenty' with the King Of The Blues is fantastic.
Our dad has also written a book which Kathleen says he would like to have had published, this was one of his last projects before he became ill. We all, Kathleen and ourselves hope to find some concrete way to have his dedicated hard work and talent remembered.
We are very proud of our dad, we think he was so very brave battling his own illness, while his only son our Paul lost his own courageous battle with leukemia, twelve weeks previously. How inspirational, we only hope they are together now spending quality time with the music, fishing and golfing. We thank Kathleen for giving him love, happiness and support, and everyone else for their good wishes.
Julie and Paula. x