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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Dwayne "Smitty" Smith

smitty smithSmitty:  When you talk about bass players, you must include my next guest. He is a sure superstar in this format and if you don’t believe me, just ask Will Downing, Gerald Albright, Natalie Cole, Norman Brown, Bobby Lyle, Michael Paulo, Doc Powell, Michael White, James Ingram.  This cat is the real deal, he’s enjoying his debut release appropriately called This Is Me.  Please welcome the phenomenal Mr. Dwayne “Smitty” Smith.  Smitty, how ya doing, baby?

Dwayne “Smitty” Smith (DSS):  I’m doing wonderful, brother.

Smitty:  Yeah, and I know you’re having fun with this new record.  Now, sometimes people think that if you don’t have ten records out there that you haven’t arrived, you’re not a great star, but that’s not the case here, man, because you have raised level and made a significant difference on a lot of recordings just by the fact that you were sitting in on the bass.

DSS:  Yeah, bass is a great instrument for lead and typically you think of bass as the groove instrument and a lotta great guys like Wayman Tisdale have done bass records using the piccolo bass.

Smitty: Yes.

DSS:  I brought it back more like a Marcus Miller thing using the traditional four-string bass which has its own voice and, yeah, it’s doing well.  People are receiving it well.

Smitty: Yes. And I feel like you are making a huge statement with this solo record… “Here I am, here’s the record, I’m putting it out there, this is what I can do, this is what it’s all about with Dwayne ‘Smitty’ Smith.”

DSS:  “This is me.”

Smitty:  Yeah, man.  And you’ve got some great tracks on here and I gotta tell ya that “Funky G” is my boy.

DSS:  That’s your boy?

Smitty:  That’s my track, man.

DSS:  Yeah, thanks to my buddy Gerald Albright, we wrote that together.  I just said to him….I said, “Gerald, I got a tune for you, man, some tracks. Listen to it. Write me a melody or something,” and I sent him the track and a couple of weeks later he sent me all the sax stuff, we mixed it down, it was done.

Smitty:  (Laughs)

DSS:  Gotta love that.

Smitty:  Yes indeed and you couldn’t have picked a better cat.  I mean, Gerald Albright, he is the boy, you know?

DSS:  Great guy.

Smitty:  What a talent and you’ve got some great musicians on this CD.  My goodness, man, just looking at this lineup, it’s full all stars:  Jeff Lorber.  How can you go wrong with him?

DSS:  Right.

Smitty:  And my girl, Gail Jhonson on “Amazing Grace.”

DSS:  Yes.

Smitty:  What a track and what an arrangement.

DSS:  Love her, love her.

Smitty:  Oh Yeah. You slipped Brian Simpson in there.

DSS:  Brian Simpson.

Smitty:  Will Downing.

DSS:  (Laughs)

Smitty: And, you know, someone I wanted to mention here that perhaps not everyone in the format is familiar with, but this cat is totally bad and that’s guitarist Darryl Crooks.

DSS:  Oh yeah.

Smitty:  He has got some heat, great chops.

DSS:  Yes, you’re right.  He’s been around a long time, he’s played with a lotta people.…been on a lotta records, but like you said, not a very familiar person, but he is awesome, sweet guy.

Smitty: I have seen him set in on some great sessions and I’ve had the opportunity to just watch him do his thing. He’s got some juice.

DSS: Yes, he’s very talented.

Smitty: When I first heard that you were coming out with a record, I said “Oh, man, it’s about time! He’s been holding everybody else up and doing their thing and supporting everyone else. It’s time for him to bust out.”

DSS:  Well, the time was right. I did a long run with the Isley Brothers….maybe from ’96 to about 2002, and I was just getting this feeling, Smitty and I said  that it was time for me to do my thing.

Smitty: I know that’s a true story.

DSS:  I pulled away from those guys and I just started writing some tunes and about a year later I had some stuff.

Smitty:  Yeah, isn’t it cool that over the years you’ve supported all these cats. And they didn’t forget you….They all came out to support you on this project. Even Donnell Spencer’s there. I can’t leave him out.

DSS:  You know Donnell?

Smitty:  Yeah, I know Donnell. Donnell’s a great cat, yeah.

DSS: Yes, beautiful talented brother. You are right, it was beautiful to have all of them involved with this record.

Smitty: This is high quality stuff, and you got Dwight Sills in there too. Talk about when you started to put this record together, what was the whole concept?  I know the title is This Is Me, but talk about some of the inner workings of putting this together and your thought process when you arranged this record.

DSS:  When I first started writing, I wanted to fit in with the Smooth Jazz genre because I wanted to get radio and be very popular but, Smitty, I just couldn’t write it.  Whenever I would sit down to write, this funky groove smooth musical bass thing would always come out, so I just went with it, man, I just kept going with it.  And I looked up, I had eight, nine tunes and they all sounded like the same person wrote them.

Smitty:  Yeah.

DSS:  This is my record, this is it.  So I put the Smooth Jazz thing down and said “This is my record, this is it, and this is me.”

Smitty:  Yeah, and it’s definitely you.

DSS:  That’s how that came about.

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