When Hal Smith plays, the spirits of George Wettling, Zutty Singleton and Dave Tough smile. Whether it’s small group swing, San Francisco Jazz, 1920s classics or freewheeling Eddie Condon jazz, his playing lifts up the music with taste, class and subtle ideas.
— Scott Yanow, Jazz Historian and Journalist. http://www.scottyanow.com
Hal Smith took up the drums in 1963, and became a full-time professional musician in 1978. He was influenced by hearing Ben Pollack, Nick Fatool, Wayne Jones and Fred Higuera in live performance and has studied the recordings of Sid Catlett, Dave Tough, Zutty Singleton, Jo Jones, Minor Hall, Andrew Hilaire, Vic Berton, Johnny Wells, Stan King, Harry Dial and many others.
He has played with many of the best Traditional Jazz and Swing bands including the Dukes of Dixieland, Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band, Butch Thompson Trio, Grand Dominion Jazz Band, Bob Schulz’s Frisco Jazz Band, Climax Jazz Band, Yerba Buena Stompers, the Fat Babies, Campus Five, Rhythm Serenaders and others. Hal has also played Western Swing (Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition; Jason Roberts Band); Rockabilly (Memphis Speed Kings, the Hayriders, Gino and the Lone Gunmen, Cash Kings, Big Rig Deluxe) and Blues (James Harman, Jontavious Willis, Junior Watson, Nathan James/Ben Hernandez, Blue Largo, Johnny Rover, Billy Watson).
Hal has performed on Minnesota Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” Texas Public Radio’s “Riverwalk – Live From The Landing,” numerous television programs and on over 200 recordings.
Hal was one of the founders of America’s Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society’s Adult Traditional Jazz Camp, which began in 1995. He has also been on the faculty of the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp, lecturing on Jazz history, supervising student ensembles, performing with the faculty band and giving private instruction on drums.
For over a decade, Hal produced CDs for the George H. Buck Jr. Jazz Foundation and the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation and wrote liner notes for most of those releases.
Hal has also written many sets of liner notes as well as articles for publications across the U.S. and in Europe. (For samples, please click on the link for the WRITING page).
Currently Hal lives in Searcy, Arkansas. He travels across the U.S. for musical engagements. Some of the groups Hal plays with include Tim Laughlin’s New Orleans All-Stars, Miss Jubilee and the Yas Yas Boys and Grammy Award winner Floyd Domino’ All-Stars. He is also leading The Jazzologists and the Mortonia Seven.
As of this writing Hal is actively recording “Acapella” video programs with Sarah Spencer’s Global Ramblers and Clint Baker and is involved in several remote recording projects. In addition, he appears together with Grammy Award-winning writer Loren Schoenberg and guitarist Nick Rossi on the “Get Happy” video series, which examines the music of Benny Goodman. Hal has also been a guest on the podcast “Now You Has Jazz, Jazz, Jazz,” hosted by British jazz drummer John Petters and “Drummers’ Roundtable,” which may be viewed on YouTube
Hal Smith plays LUDWIG drums and SABIAN cymbals.