Do You Remember Your First Kiss? Veteran contemporary jazz guitarist Richard Smith joins the Heads Up International roster with his new Enhanced CD release, First Kiss (HUCD 3042), set for worldwide release October 28.
Also a noted educator, Smith has been involved in the contemporary jazz genre since its inception as New Adult Contemporary Music in the 1980s. Starting as a sideman for Dan Siegel and Richard Elliot, Smith has built a tremendous following from his four previous solo recordings, all of which were Top Five airplay successes.
On First Kiss, Smith focuses less on being strictly a guitar virtuoso and more on timeless compositions, which feature a multitude of special guests including Richard Elliot, Peter White, Brandon Fields and Greg Vale.
"First Kiss is more of a unified statement, something more intimate with a vibe and attitude. It's as though I am hanging with just a few different overall chords on each tune, keeping things rhythmically simple and direct, concentrating less on the flash of the guitar and more on the intimacy, the melody and soulfulness of the tunes."
Smith keeps his guitar arsenal on First Kiss to a minimum, switching off between a Gibson Birdland electric jazz guitar and custom-made Sadowsky nylon string. Smith is joined on various tracks by saxmen Richard Elliot, Brandon Fields, Michael Lington (from Bobby Caldwell's band), and Greg Vail, flugelhornist Tony Guerrero and acoustic guitarist Peter White. "Peter and I have become great friends from the Guitars & Saxes tours I've been on with Richard Elliot," says Smith. "His encouragement led me to write the piece 'A Minor Love Affair,' a double entendre title which has us playing a seductive duet. The challenge was to both stand out and not overshadow the other."
Smith's passion for rock and blues forms the undercurrent of the gently rhythmic and Iyrical track "Midnight Run," while he and White blend their acoustic charms over a moody, mysterious atmosphere complete with an orchestral texture. Fields adds a cool funk flavor to Smith's electric intensity on the shuffling hip-hop of the title track, while Lington's soprano soars eloquently above more subtle, eloquent jazz guitar textures on "Mission of Love." Vail trades some snazzy riffs with Smith over the rolling bass lines of the strutting attitudes of "Rhythm Method," which eases smoothly into the swinging, playful classic 60's blues/soul vibe of "Put It Where You Want It" which recalls that great Memphis horn sound. Other songs include "Never Too Much" (featuring Elliot) and "Impulsive" (with Guerrero).
Smith has also received acclaim as the head of University of Southern California's guitar department, which has been hailed as the top guitar department in the nation. Equally passionate about education, Smith has strong feelings about how schools should approach music education. "The most important thing I can do is to keep a young person's mind open to all the music that's happening," he explains. "If I can get them to think in an open sense about jazz, rock, blues and country and that somehow they are all legitimate and all fit and work together, then my job is done."
Smith has often been approached as to why he chose a performance career in smooth jazz over the more traditional, straight ahead jazz often emphasized in schools. "I chose to throw my cap in this arena," he explains, "because it has the harmonic and rhythmic components that have what I need to best express myself."
First Kiss is an Enhanced CD which features a Smith biography and video interview as well as information on other Heads Up recording acts. The CD can be viewed via a CD-ROM drive on either a Windows or Mac-based computer. This is the eighth Enhanced CD for Heads Up International, which embraced the new technology in the Spring of 1996.