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Frank Smith was born and raised in Indianapolis, a city famous for its Indiana Avenue jazz clubs and the local and national jazz talent that played there in the 1940-50s. Smith learned about music growing up in a family that listened to both jazz and classical music. His mother majored in music and taught classical piano. His father loved listening to jazz records.Jay Harvey, jazz critic for the Indianapolis Star, writes in the Dec. 3, 2006 issue about Smith’s entry into the world of jazz:
“My mother and (pianist- vibraphonist) Buddy Montgomery were good friends,” the 50-year-old Indianapolis native recalled recently at his Meridian-Kessler home. “And one day Wes (Buddy’s brother) came over to my house and I showed him what I had learned.”
Wes Montgomery, one of a handful of great jazz guitarists of the 20th century, paid the youngster a compliment or two, then asked if he could try the instrument. Smith still marvels at how much better his cheap guitar sounded in the maestro’s hands.
Between that demonstration and the example of a garage-band colleague who played the guitar pretty well, Smith’s course was set: Exit guitar, enter bass – first the electric instrument; then, in his late teens, the acoustic double bass.
Smith later studied with bassist Buster Williams and with David Baker, Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Jazz Department at the Indiana University School of Music.
The bassist spent a few years on the road with The Fifth Dimension and then eventually moved to New York where he lived and played jazz. Smith traveled around the world in the 1990s playing jazz on cruise ships with legendary jazz and pop musicians such as: Dizzy Gillespie, Zoot Sims, Teddy Wilson and Michel LeGrande.
Since 1998, Smith now works from his home base of Indianapolis and has played jazz with a variety of musicians from both his hometown and around the country including: Steve Allee, Jimmie Coe, Everett Greene, Pookie Johnson, Harold Jones, Roy Meriwether, Buddy Montgomery and Houston Person.
Smith has served as a faculty member at the Jamey Aebersold music camps at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
Today, Smith is busy composing music and beginning to tour with his first CD, Chasing Chances, which he co-produced with pianist Steve Allee, a long-time friend, composer and bandleader.