In Folk Jazz, Bill Smith brought together jazz wisdom, a deep understanding of 20th-century classical form and harmony, and a highly developed sense of fun. He enlisted as his colleagues in the venture Jim Hall, Monty Budwig, and Shelly Manne, stars of the Contemporary label who shared his attributes and vision. William O. Smith is a respected classical composer and teacher who studied at Juilliard and with Darius Milhaud and Roger Sessions. He was also formed by the spontaneity and verve of jazz improvisation, of which he has been a master since he worked with the Dave Brubeck Octet in 1946. Smith chose ten songs from across the wide spectrum of folk music and invested them with jazz coloration and feeling while preserving their original spirit. In the spare setting of guitar, bass, and drums, Smith's clarinet displays the songs like jewels, and he works stimulating, often profound variations on them. Hall's guitar improvisations are typical of his brilliant work of the period.