Lavay Smith

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Lavay Smith
Lavay Smith.jpg
Lavay Smith in 2007
Background information
Born 1967
Long Beach, California, U.S.
Genres Vocal jazz, blues, pop
Occupation(s) Singer
Years active 1980s–present
Labels Fat Note
Associated acts Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers

Lavay Smith is an American singer specializing in blues, jazz, and swing. She tours with her 8-piece "little big band", Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.


Lavay Smith was born in Long Beach, California, the fourth of five children. At the age of 12, her family moved to the Philippines. Two years later she performed onstage in Manila for members of the American military.[1] When she moved back to Southern California, she sang blues, rock, and country songs in cafés. After falling in love with the classic jazz and blues of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, she moved to San Francisco and started performing in night clubs in 1989.[2]

Smith sings her own songs in addition to those by Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Helen Humes, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Big Maybelle and Esther Phillips. She has toured all over the world with her band, the Red Hot Skillet Lickers, playing jazz and blues festivals and night clubs, including The Chicago Jazz Festival, The Monterey Jazz Festival, The Playboy Jazz Festival, and Lincoln Center in New York City.

Smith won the San Francisco Regional Poll in the 1st Annual Independent Music Awards for "I Want a Big Fine Daddy" and the San Francisco Chronicle readers' choice poll for best band. American Lindy hop pioneer Frankie Manning chose Lavay Smith and her band to perform on a Caribbean cruise for his 90th birthday in May 2004. Smith owns her own record label, Fat Note Records.

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers[edit]

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers

Smith formed her band, "Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers" in San Francisco in 1989. The group originally consisted of trumpet, piano, guitar, bass and drums. The band grew over time, and since 1996 she has performed and toured with an 8-piece lineup (4 horns and 4 rhythm) consisting of trumpet, trombone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, piano, guitar, bass and drums. Occasionally, Lavay expands the band to 10 pieces (6 horns and 4 rhythm) by adding a second trumpet and a baritone. Lavay also performs with a 16-piece big band.

Today, the band consists of Bill Ortiz (trumpet); Mike Olmos (trumpet); Danny Armstrong (trombone); Jules Broussard (alto and tenor saxophones); Charles McNeal (alto and tenor saxophones); Howard Wiley (tenor saxophone); Robert Stewart (tenor saxophone); Pete Cornell (alto, tenor and baritone saxophones); Charlie Siebert (guitar); David Ewell (string bass); Marcus Shelby (string bass); Darrell Green (drums) and Chris Siebert (piano, arranger, bandleader). The band's arrangements are written by Chris Siebert and noted New York arranger David Berger.[3]

Lavay's band members have performed with many famous musicians:[3]

Tenor Saxophone player Robert Stewart has performed or recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Jimmy Smith, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Pharoah Sanders, Donald Byrd, Eddie Harris, Benny Golson, John Lee Hooker, Les McCann, Billy Higgins, Bobby Hutcherson, Jon Hendricks, Milt Jackson, Cassandra Wilson, Etta Jones, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Roy Hargrove, John Handy, Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano and has toured with Wynton Marsalis & The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for 4 years. He recorded for Quincy Jones' Qwest Records and tours the world under his own name.

Trumpet player Bill Ortiz has performed with Tito Puente, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter and has been Carlos Santana's Trumpet player for over 7 years.

Trumpet player Mike Olmos has performed with Etta James and Rosemary Clooney.

Trombone player Danny Armstrong has performed with Johnny Otis, Rufus Thomas, Ann Peebles and Archie Bell & the Drells.

Alto and Tenor Saxophone player Jules Broussard has performed with Ray Charles, Esther Phillips, Big Mama Thornton, Earl Grant, Santana, Steve Miller, Van Morrison and Boz Scaggs.

Alto and Tenor Saxophone player Charles McNeal has performed with John Faddis, Wynton Marsalis, Leslie Drayton, McCoy Tyner, Barbara Morrison, Junior Mance, Roberta Flack, The Temptations and Ruth Brown.

Tenor Saxophone player Howard Wiley and Bassist David Ewell toured with Lauryn Hill throughout 2007. David Ewell also tours with piano player Marc Cary.

Drummer Darrell Green has performed with Dr. Lonnie Smith, Marlena Shaw, Jeremy Pelt, Stephon Harris and Tony Monaco. He has toured to Europe several times with Sherman Irby, alto saxophone player with The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Former Trumpet player Allen Smith, who died on February 3, 2011[4] had performed with Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, Benny Goodman, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

Former Tenor Saxophone player Ron Stallings, who died on April 13, 2009[5] had performed with Joe Williams, Big Joe Turner, Jimmy McCracklin, Ruth Brown, Louis Bellson, Gladys Knight, Otis Rush and Dr. John and had been a long-time member of Huey Lewis and the News.

Lavay Smith released her third album, Miss Smith to You! for her independent record label, Fat Note Records on September 8, 2009.



  1. ^ Daly, Sean (December 2001). "Jazz Articles: Lavay Smith: Miss Thing Talks Back - By Sean Daly — Jazz Articles". Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  2. ^ Phares, Heather. "Lavay Smith: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  3. ^ a b Lavay Smith - Meet the Band Retrieved April 30, 2013
  4. ^ Vaziri, Aidin (10 February 2011). "Allen Smith - esteemed S.F. jazz trumpeter - dies". SFGate. Retrieved April 30, 2013. 
  5. ^ Vaziri, Aidin (16 April 2011). "Ron Stallings, prominent saxophonist, dies". SFGate. Retrieved April 30, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Lavay Smith | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Pener, Degen (1999). The Swing Book. New York: Back Bay Book. p. 256 pages. ISBN 978-0-316-69802-3. 
  • Vale, V.; Marian Wallace (1998). Swing! The New Retro Renaissance (V/Search). San Francisco: Re/Search Publications. p. 214 pages. ISBN 978-1-889307-02-2. 
  • Yanow, Scott (2000). Swing: The Essential Listening Companion. San Francisco: Miller Freeman. p. 520 pages. ISBN 978-0-87930-600-7. 

External links[edit]