The great Lonnie Liston Smith is one of contemporary music’s most versatile musicians. In a career that spans some 40 years, he has been heard in a variety of context as a featured sideman for some of Jazz music’s most illustrious leaders before stepping out to reveal his own original concepts as a bandleader in the mid 70s. He is a keyboardist of the first rank and has influenced a generation of young players that have acknowledged his rhythmic urgency (swing), harmonic acumen and composing skills.
Lonnie began performing in the Baltimore area where he became adept at backing vocalists such as Ethel Ennis and visiting dignitaries like Betty Carter. He enjoyed a 2 year stay with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and recorded 2 records with Rahsaan entitled, “Please don’t Cry Beautiful Edith” on Verve Records and “Here Comes the Whistleman” on Atlantic Records.
Lonnie’s next 3 jobs were perhaps the most important stepping stones in his career:
He got the call from Pharaoh Sanders in 1968 and made his mark in one of the most visible ensembles of the day.
In early 1972, Lonnie and Gato were performing in Rome, Italy and one night the movie director, Bernardo Bertolucci, stopped by to discuss the sound track for the movie, “Last Tango in Paris”. In 1973 Lonnie received the important call to join the Miles Davis ensemble. Lonnie recorded 2 CDs with Miles, “On The Corner” and “Big Fun”;
In 1974, Producer, Bob Thiele, signed Lonnie to a solo recording contract. “Astral Traveling” and “Cosmic Funk” were Lonnie’s first 2 CDs. However, it was his album “Expansions” that broke Lonnie into the major leagues as a worldwide leader.
In the 90’s, Lonnie got involved with “Guru Jazzmataz Volume One” (Rap meets Jazz) and was discovered by an all new young audience. Lonnie also has had two hit singles with Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z. Mary J. Blige sampled Lonnie’s composition “A Garden of Peace” in her Grammy winning single, “Take Me As I Am” and Jay – Z also sampled, “A Garden of Peace” in his hit sample, “Dead Presidents”.