Chet Smith Orchestra

Chet Smith The electric elegance of THE CHET SMITH ORCHESTRA revives the era of romance and swing. A confirmed wizard of orchestral synthesis and Jazz Organ Chet's repertoire includes the arrangements of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhom and Oliver Nelson.

Born in Philadelphia, Chet began his professional career at the age of sixteen. Influenced early on by the original recordings of Jimmy Smith, Duke Ellington, and Erroll Garner, Chet composed and arranged all of the music for his first band, the "Jazz Machine," which was discovered by Jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. He toured the United States as a factory artist for the Conn Organ Company, then settled in the San Francisco bay area where he began performing with Donald "Duck" Bailey. "Wow, what's this guy doing, he has an entirely different approach to playing the organ!" says Bailey. The Chet Smith Orchestra has also appeared with former Duke Ellington drummer, Louie Bellson, and recently released their first CD, BLUE CRESCENDO.

In California Jazz Now, Josh Moscov marvels at Chet's "...ability to create the feel of a big band in a quartet situation," and believes "...the orchestra performs a modern, futuristic form of Jazz that incorporates the Blues of Jimmy Smith and the Big Band feel of Duke Ellington."

The invitations of Bay Area Organ Clubs have acknowledged Chet's musical brilliance and expertise. Chet's credits include touring with the legendary Jimmy Smith as a technical consultant. He was appointed musical director for a Timpany Center Production which was performed at the Flint Center and was aired on Channel 11, an ABC affiliate. Chet's technical expertise has been quoted by Keyboard Magazine in recent articles. He has conducted clinics and assisted lectures on Jazz and bebop at San Jose State University for several years. Doodlin' Productions and Chet co-wrote a presentation on the Jazz Organ featured at the 1996 San Fransisco Jazz Festival. The Chet Smith Orchestra made their national T.V. debut on Black Entertainment Television's Jazz Discovery 1995 program with a viewing audience of 40 million. The San Jose State Symphony Orchestra commissioned Chet's "Wildlife Suite" in October, 1996.

The Chet Smith Orchestra has performed at several Bay Area Jazz festivals. Chet's "keyboard rig" redefines the sound spectrum. His dynamic and sparkling performances are earmarked by the continuous motions of his hands and feet. He has been described by the Oakland Tribune's music critic Larry Kelp as "a real showman." Chet's performance at the 1992 Stanford Jazz Festival was received with enthusiasm and was best described by Rose Musegas in California Jazz Now, "Chet Smith created excitement. ... His arrangements were spellbinding."

Combining his technical wizardry with his musical brilliance, Chet has expanded the limitations of the traditional organ by adding a symphonic scope of sounds in addition to his swinging bass pedal technique. In The Santa Cruz Sentinel, Philip Collins' review of Chet's performance in a Nat "King" Cole Tribute testifies, "Cole fans who were weaned on the orchestrations of Nelson Riddle will be pleased to know that Smith's organ/synthesizer accompaniments are acclaimed for their richness of sound." Chet Smith is an orchestra. His musical presentation guarantees a show that will be long remembered.

Duke Ellington

"Duke Ellington is the most illustrious contributor to the world of Jazz and a pioneer in American music. It was his music that truly inspired and taught me how to arrange for a synthesized Jazz orchestra, This positive influence from Duke helped me find my musical niche in the Jazz idiom. I compose music for the orchestral synthesizer. The most important elements of my orchestra are the musicians I have to compose for. True, the synthesizer can reproduce any sound of the orchestra, but it's the human element that brings the sound of my orchestra together. This combination of the orchestral synthesizer and real acoustic instruments produces a new sound which reflects my musical vision, dedication to Duke Ellington, and to all the masters who have inspired me."

Chester E. Smith

Blue Crescendo

CD Cover

1. Celestial Rider 7:39
2. Light Rail Express 8:04
3. Jax Jam 5:54
4. Rap It Up 6:47
5. South Keeble Groove 7:05
6. Skylane 6:05
7. Goodbye Blues Theme 4:42
8. The TUFBENZ 7:20
9. Jump On It 7:50
10. Blue Crescendo 8:03

"Jump On It"
RealAudio (3.0 @ 28.8)


Chet Smith Korg T3 with 25-note MIDI Bass Pedals, Yamaha SY77, Roland R8
Charles Smith
(The Dr. Rhythm)
Drums, Percussion
Carlos Joe Costa Latin Percussion
Tacuma Congas
Colin Wenhardt Lead Alto, Flute, Clarinet, Tenor Sax
Dawan Muhammad Tenor Sax
Steve Morrow Trombone
Ed Morrison Trumpet
Rochelle Roberts


Producer The Alameda Keyboard Studio
Recording Sonic Images, San Jose, California (March & April, 1994)

The Arrangements

Celestial Rider
This is the perfect title for this groove. Chet wrote this song in 1985 with a quarracha pattern. The 90's version is propelled by a solid bottom-end. The groove is set by the combination of the Roland R8 and Carlos Joe Costa on the Latin Percussion. This musical journey travels through the cosmos with a steady beat, swing hopping all the way.

Light Rail Express
Chet wrote this song in tribute to Billy Strayhorn. The chord changes are borrowed from "Take The 'A' Train", the Strayhorn composition This track demonstrates how fun music can be. The nod of course goes to Duke; but then, why not? Chet's orchestration is brilliant as he lets more reed players on the Express at each stop. Vocalist Rochelle Roberts enhances Chet's lyrics. Colin Wenhardt's tenor voice speaks to us as the Light Rail swings down the main line. Someone asks for directions and the T3 baritone sax voice responds, but the only direction that needs to be given comes from Chet's driving piano choruses. Strong, Erroll Garner-like lines pass through Basie and dip into Duke, but ultimately come out clearly Chet. The Dr. Rhythm and Carlos Joe Costa are the engineers pulling the Light Rail with a hard swing feel. ALL BOARD!

Jax Jam
A "Jazz Machine" classic, Chet composed this song shortly after graduation from high school. You can hear several influences in this high-tech Latin Jazz arrangement. Colin Wenhardt's flute work and Dawan Muhammad's tenor sax add the colors needed to make this song complete. Chet stretches out a little on his SY77 Rhodes patch, while Charles and Carlos call and respond to each other at the shout chorus.

Rap It Up
Here's one that sneaks up on you. Chet composed this song in January, 1994. It represents "Swing Hop" with all the trademark elements: the Swing feel, African congas by Tacuma, subtle improvisation and high-tech Funk. This new-age-groove will sweep you off your feet.

South Keeble Groove
On occasion, Chet honors his friends with a musical gift in the form of a composition. The scene is a big green house in San Jose filled with warmth, music, stuff and organs. Chet has his orchestra wide open for this one, the lines are long and flowing. The call and response of the brass and woodwinds highlight this swinging arrangement. The trombone section features the deep voice of Steve Morrow that pushes us forward only to discover a surprise up front. Chet's Yamaha SY77 Jazz organ solo takes over to the delight of all. Classic Hammond organ registrations are applied in Chet's signature fashion. After a few choruses, Chet presses on, continuing what Jimmy Smith and Oliver Nelson started. The trombones bring us back to the ensemble, and Freddie Green-like comping holds everything down. Chet finally takes us home, with what I feel is the most memorable head yet.

Here, Chet provides fresh new ideas with Swing Hop, combining melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements of Jazz. The beat and high tech sounds give this unique new category a name that fits it well. The multi-timbral patches from the SY77 flow with the T3 piano/vocal patch, and T3 slapping-bass lines funk the foundation. The interaction between Tacuma and the real-time sequence performance give the overall presence a live sound.

Goodbye Blues Theme
Another "Jazz Machine" classic, Chet wrote this little melody in his senior year at Downingtown High. The song is a familiar number to all CSO fans. Chet turns on the Jazz organ patch once more to say exactly what he needs to say. It's one of his most requested originals.

The scene is two friends seated in a 1960 Mercedes Benz 190SL convertible. Chet and his personal valet, barber and close friend Tracy Wilson are on the interstate to pay a visit to a great musician, friend, and organ master Jimmy Smith. TUFBENZ is another journey on Chet's musical map that you can't afford to miss. This performance features the Smith twins and Carlos Joe Costa. The experience is definitely one of winding up in a different place than where you began, it's invigorating and well worth the traffic encountered. The sound created on Chet's keyboards elicit the everyday realities of travel but allow us to fantasize on this get-away trip. The woodwinds put the breeze in your face, while the strumming guitar and deep brass make a smooth road surface. The Jazz organ sound will let you know Chet and Tracy have Jimmy Smith on their mind. Chet said this arrangement is one of his personal ones, the music captures a close friendship and a journey in a joyous excursion of sound.

Jump On It
As the title suggests, Chet jumps right on top of it with his new SY77 Jazz organ programs. His Jazz organ influences are clearly demonstrated in this arrangement. Once again Swing Hop is captured incorporating the Jazz organ, modern rhythms and sound patches. Tacuma is obviously driving this tune with his swing'n Conga Rhythms.

Blue Crescendo
After hearing the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival recording of "Diminuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue" by Duke Ellington, Chet was convinced that Duke was the grand master of orchestral Jazz. Duke's composition demonstrates the Blues in a completely contemporary form. Using the format Duke employed, Chet composed "Blue Crescendo" in tribute to his musical hero. Chet progressively reveals his bag of tricks on this title cut. This is a spacious chart that does nothing but swing. The bass work serves as your guide through this museum of Jazz from past to present. Just try and keep your feet still, it's impossible! Upon the completion of the first ensemble Colin Wenhardt takes a solo, the piano oversees, making sure nothing is left out. After the final band call, the sax section brings in the orchestra for the ensemble finale. Chet recreated the live big band festival sound in a controlled studio recording session. This selection offers the best of his Jazz orchestration capabilities.

Pete Fallico
Doodlin' Productions

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