Warren Smith


Warren Smith (born May 14, 1934) is an American jazz drummer and percussionist, known as a contributor to Max Roach's M'boom ensemble and leader of the Composer's Workshop Ensemble (Strata-East).


Smith was born May 14, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois, to a musical family. His father played saxophone and clarinet with Noble Sissle and Jimmie Noone, and his mother was a harpist and pianist. At the age of four Smith studied clarinet with his father. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1957, then received a master's degree in percussion from the Manhattan School of Music in 1958.

One of his earliest major recording dates was with Miles Davis as a vibraphonist in 1957. He found work in Broadway pit bands in 1958, and also played with Gil Evans that year. In 1961 he co-founded the Composers Workshop Ensemble. In the 1960s Smith accompanied Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Lloyd Price, and Nat King Cole; he worked with Sam Rivers from 1964–76 and with Gil Evans again from 1968 to 1976. In 1969 he played with Janis Joplin and in 1971 with King Curtis and Tony Williams. He was also a founding member of Max Roach's percussion ensemble, M'Boom, in 1970.

In the 1970s and 1980s Smith had a loft called Studio Wis that acted as a performing and recording space for many young New York jazz musicians, such as Wadada Leo Smith and Oliver Lake. Through the 1970s Smith played with Andrew White, Julius Hemphill, Muhal Richard Abrams, Nancy Wilson, Quincy Jones, Count Basie, and Carmen McRae. Other credits include extensive work with rock and pop musicians and time spent with Anthony Braxton, Charles Mingus, Henry Threadgill, Van Morrison, and Joe Zawinul. He continued to work on Broadway into the 1990s, and has performed with a number of classical ensembles.

Smith taught in the New York City public school system from 1958 to 1968, at Third Street Settlement from 1960 to 1967, at Adelphi University in 1970–71, and at SUNY-Old Westbury from 1971.


As leader

  • 1975: Folks Song (Baystate)
  • 1979: Warren Smith and Masami Nakagawa (RCA)
  • 1979: Warren Smith and Toki (RCA)
  • 1995: Warren Smith and the Composer's Workshop Ensemble (Claves)
  • 1998: Cats Are Stealing My $hit (Mapleshade)
  • 2007: Natural/Cultural Forces (Engine)
  • 2009: Old News Borrowed Blues (Engine)

As sideman

With Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt

  • Together Again for the Last Time (Prestige, 1973 [1976])

With Kenny Barron

  • Sunset to Dawn (Muse, 1973)

With Anthony Braxton

  • Creative Orchestra Music 1976 (Arista, 1976)
  • Six Standards (Quintet) 1996 (Splasc(H), 1995 [2004])

With Rob Brown

  • Round the Bend (Bleu Regard, 2002)

With Jaki Byard

  • Family Man (Muse, 1978)

With Composer's Workshop Ensemble

  • Composer's Workshop Ensemble (Strata-East, 1972)
  • We've Been Around (Strata-East, 1974)

With Gil Evans

  • The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix (RCA, 1974)
  • There Comes a Time (RCA, 1975)

With Art Farmer

  • Homecoming (Mainstream, 1971)

With Benny Golson

  • Tune In, Turn On (Verve, 1967)

With Billy Harper

  • Capra Black (Strata-East, 1973)

With Julius Hemphill

  • Flat-Out Jump Suite (Black Saint, 1980)

With J. J. Johnson

  • Broadway Express (RCA Victor, 1965)
  • Betwixt & Between (A&M/CTI, 1969) with and Kai Winding

With Hubert Laws

  • Wild Flower (Atlantic, 1972)

With Herbie Mann

  • Our Mann Flute (Atlantic, 1966)

With Ken McIntyre

  • Year of the Iron Sheep (United Artists, 1962)

With Van Morrison

  • Astral Weeks (Warner Bros., 1968)

With M'Boom

  • Re: Percussion (Strata-East, 1973)
  • M'Boom (Columbia, 1979)
  • Collage (Soul Note, 1984)
  • To the Max! (Enja, 1990–91)
  • Live at S.O.B.'s New York (Blue Moon, 1992)

With Jack McDuff

  • A Change Is Gonna Come (Atlantic, 1966)

With Charles Mingus

  • The Complete Town Hall Concert (Blue Note, 1962 [1994])

With Sam Rivers

  • Hues (Impulse!, 1973)
  • Sizzle (Impulse!, 1975)

With Jimmy Smith

  • Monster (Verve, 1965)

With Charles Tolliver

  • Impact (Strata-East, 1975)

with Roy Campbell, Joe McPhee & William Parker

  • Tribute to Albert Ayler Live at the Dynamo (Marge, 2009)

With Phil Upchurch

  • Feeling Blue (Milestone, 1967)

With David S. Ware

  • Shakti (AUM Fidelity, 2009)
  • Onecept (AUM Fidelity, 2009)

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