Paul Smoker—jazz trumpeter, composer, music educator—dies at 75
The board, administration, faculty, students, alumni, and staff of Nazareth College were saddened to learn of the recent death of faculty member and renowned jazz trumpeter, Paul Smoker
. Professor Smoker died on May 14, 2016.
Trumpeter, composer, and educator Paul Smoker found his passion in both classical and jazz music since he first heard trumpeter Harry James on the radio at age 10. At 14, he began performing professionally at jazz clubs in Rock Island, Illinois and Moline, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from his hometown of Davenport, Iowa, where he also played first trumpet with the youth symphony orchestra and in the pit for three Broadway shows every summer with the Quad-City Music Guild.
While working on his four degrees at the University of Iowa (B.M in Music Education and Performance, M.A., M.F.A., and D.M.A. in performance and pedagogy), Smoker played much of the classical trumpet repertory, as well as chamber, orchestral, and contemporary music (as a member of the Center for New Music). He was a founding member of the University of Iowa Jazz Ensemble; continued to play professionally with jazz groups, the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra, and show orchestras; and began to arrange, compose, and teach.
Smoker was a member of the Iowa Brass Quintet for 10 years and received commissions to compose and arrange for high school, college, and professional jazz ensembles. As a musician, his influences included avant-garde classical sources and the jazz trumpet tradition (specifically Clifford Brown, Conte Candoli, Miles Davis, Maynard Ferguson, and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as saxophonists John Coltrane and Anthony Braxton).
As an educator, Smoker held full-time positions at the Universities of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, Iowa, and Northern Iowa, as well as Coe College, where he was a founding member of the faculty contemporary music group, SOMA. In 2001, Smoker was appointed to coordinate the jazz studies program in the Nazareth College Department of Music in Rochester, New York, where he directed the jazz ensemble and combo, taught jazz history, jazz theory, and improvisation. He also served as composer-in-residence at Rochester’s School of the Arts, East High, and Cornell University.
In the early 1980s, The Paul Smoker Trio made its first recordings and quickly acquired an international reputation, touring and playing jazz festivals throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Since then, Smoker appeared on 50 recordings, both as a leader and as a sideman, and worked and/or recorded with such musicians as Barry Altschul, Borah Bergman, Anthony Braxton, Don Byron, Buddy DeFranco, Mark Dresser, Ellery Eskelin, Vinny Golia, Lou Grassi, Drew Gress, Phil Haynes, Gerry Hemingway, Al Jarreau, David Liebman, Dodo Marmarosa, Evan Parker, Art Pepper, Frank Rosolino, Steve Salerno, David Sanborn, Doc Severinsen, John Tchicai, and others. He was first elected to the Downbeat Critics’ Poll in 1986, and was the subject of features and reviews in Downbeat Magazine
, Jazziz Magazine
, CODA Magazine
, and Cadence Magazine
, among other periodicals. His recordings and style are discussed in various discographies, encyclopedias, and textbooks.
His latest group, The Paul Smoker Notet, released recordings called Cool Lives
in 2012 and Landings
in 2013. Jazz Podium
magazine wrote of Landings
, “To the widely discussed question about the future development of the jazz trumpet, Paul Smoker’s musical concept could definitely constitute a far-reaching answer.”
Paul Smoker is survived by his wife, pianist Dr. Beverly Smoker, (professor of Music and chair of the Nazareth College Music Department) and sons, Evan and Andrew (Allison), granddaughters Addison and Henley, and brother, Phillip (Libby), as well as many generations of beloved students who benefited from his teaching and guidance.
A memorial service and celebration of the life, music, and teaching of Paul Smoker will be held on Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 1 p.m. in Linehan Chapel on the campus of Nazareth College (4245 East Avenue, Rochester, N.Y.). The service will conclude with a jazz performance presented by the Nazareth College Jazz Ensemble, former students and colleagues, and anyone who wishes to participate. A reception will follow.
Memorial Donations may be made to the Nazareth College Music Department to support Jazz Studies
(please change the gift allocation to OTHER and specify MUSIC DEPARTMENT JAZZ STUDIES in COMMENTS), or URMC Cardiology.
Nazareth College's academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y. challenges and supports 2,000 undergrads and 800 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life's work.