Music » Livewire

Howie Smith

Sunday, February 18, at Drinko Recital Hall, Cleveland State University.


Although he hasn't gotten much publicity, saxophonist Howie Smith, coordinator of Cleveland State's jazz studies program, is among the finest and most versatile jazzmen to perform in this area. Many Cleveland jazz fans have heard him play brilliantly in relatively traditional post-bop settings, with people such as tenorman Ernie Krivda, trumpeter Kennie Davis, and pianist Neal Creque, as well as with the excellent local big band the Jazz Unit. He was the first Cleveland jazz musician to win a Cleveland Arts Prize for music composition and has received six individual artist fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council. What many don't know is that, for most of the 21 years Smith has been in Cleveland, he's also been a one-man avant-garde movement. There just haven't been many like-minded local musicians who could play with him on some of his experimental works, and every year Smith gives a free concert at CSU's Drinko Hall featuring some of his most ambitious efforts. Sometimes these involve a number of players, including the Cleveland Chamber Symphony and a 60-piece sax ensemble. This year, he's going it alone, with a composition called "The Speed of Time," a work that will last 75 minutes. It should be noted, however, that while he'll be the only performer on stage, he'll interact with prerecorded saxophones and percussion. There will also be eight different sound sources from which the concert can be heard, and the sound will move around the auditorium as the concert progresses. The composition itself runs the gamut from blues to free jazz, although each section will move smoothly into the next. "The Speed of Time" will showcase Smith's considerable compositional and instrumental skills; if you haven't heard him, this is a great place to start.

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