From Jazz Clubs To Juilliard—
Jumaane Smith’s Trumpet Blast Is His Calling Card
By John Voket
Jumaane Smith may not be a household name… yet, but his trumpet playing skills have been tapped by some of the entertainment industry’s biggest celebrities, plus he’s got a regular gig with Michael Bublé’s touring band. Smith, a Danbury resident, will be premiering his new solo project, I Only Have Eyes for You, in a hometown show at the Danbury Palace Theater on January 21.
DANBURY — The name may be unfamiliar, but once you hear the clarion blast of his trumpet, the sounds that Danbury resident Jumaane Smith evokes from his instrument are sure to make an indelible impression. With a style as unique as some of his more renowned predecessors, Jumanne is destined to join the ranks of Dizzy, Maynard, Sir Duke and Bix — cool players with unforgettable handles, at least for jazz lovers.
Today, he divides his time between working beside Michael Bublé in the Canadian singer and actor’s touring band; various session gigs supporting other players. from John Mayer to Queen Latifah; and finishing his first solo album, I Only Have Eyes For You. Smith will be showcasing selections from that project in a hometown show at Danbury’s Palace Theater on January 21.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Smith discovered his gift for the trumpet (and a great singing voice, too) at Roosevelt High School in Seattle. It was there that, according to his bio, Smith won an outstanding soloist trumpet award at the 4th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival held at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Upon his graduation, Smith returned to New York, this time on a scholarship to attend New School University, where he was tapped to join the inaugural class of Jazz Studies at The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Wynton Marsalis and Rashied Ali.
At that point his growing list of accomplishments went into overdrive: playing lead trumpet for the inaugural Juilliard Jazz Orchestra, jamming in the Juilliard Jazz Quintet, and appearing at The Montreux Jazz Festival, The North Sea Jazz Festival and The Montreal Jazz Festival.
In 2003, Jumaane founded his own band, Groovology, while beginning to amass a resume that lists a diverse range of collaborating artists including Michael McDonald, Natalie Cole, Ravi Coltrane, Jon Faddis, Wycliffe Gordon, Percy Heath, Herb Jeffries, Loren Schoenberg, Bobby Short, Nas, Mary J. Blige, Gloria Estefan, Pitbull, LL Cool J, Alicia Keys, Quincy Jones, and Justin Bieber.
He is also remembered for a notable turn at the 2009 Grammy Awards backing Stevie Wonder and the Jonas Brothers.
Smith has left his mark in the film world as well, contributing jazz interludes and trumpet parts he composed and performed for the 2010 film Handsome Harry, starring Jamey Sheridan and Steve Buscemi.
In an interview with The Newtown Bee, Smith said he is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel regarding his first solo album, which will be ready to preview in a few more weeks. And he is excited to be returning to the stage, albeit in the spotlight versus being parked in the ensemble.
“I haven’t had the solo project mastered yet because there are still a few things I am still editing,” Smith said. “There will be a lot of that material at the Danbury show.”
According to Smith, Michael Bublé was instrumental in helping get the trumpeter’s solo project off the ground.
“Michael helped me with my song selections, he helped me assemble the team — I’m basically using a lot of the same team that he uses when he goes into the studio, from producers to editors and all that stuff.”
But don’t expect a Bublé album sans the velvet crooner, himself.
“I feel I have a really unique concept and ability at this time,” Smith aid. “My project is capturing parts of Michael’s essence and what he does, and also capturing parts of Chris Botti and what he does, and more than a few parts of Louis Armstrong.
“I’ve put those together with the song selections that fit into my personality, my taste, and what I like,” he added. “It’s not just jazz – we went through both pop and jazz standards, but people will probably recognize most of the songs.”
Despite the familiarity factor, Smith insists he has nonetheless made all the selections on I Only Have Eyes for You his own.
“We do a Percy Mayfield song, ‘Please Bring Me Someone to Love,’ which is originally a slow, down tempo arrangement with a male voice. But I was hearing something completely different. I was hearing like, Aretha Franklin, so we put that together with a full choir and orchestra, and turned it into a really full gospel track now.”
Smith also covers the Beatles “Yesterday,” with a smoky vocal treatment that Smith said combines elements of James Taylor, Sting and Van Morrison.
And while he’s typically back in the shadows when he’s adding background vocals to the Bublé show, Smith’s new project includes a few numbers where he takes to the microphone to sing, as well as four tracks that showcase his instrumental arranging and performing prowess.