Warren Smith (jazz percussionist)

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Warren Smith
Warren Smith performing in 2008
Warren Smith performing in 2008
Background information
Birth nameWarren Smith
Born (1934-05-14) May 14, 1934 (age 88)
Chicago, Illinois
Years active1959–present

Warren Smith (born May 14, 1934) is an American jazz drummer and percussionist, known as a contributor to Max Roach's M'boom ensemble and leader of the Composer's Workshop Ensemble (Strata-East).


Smith was born May 14, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois, to a musical family.[1] His father played saxophone and clarinet with Noble Sissle and Jimmie Noone, and his mother was a harpist and pianist. At the age of four, Smith studied clarinet with his father. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1957, then received a master's degree in percussion from the Manhattan School of Music in 1958.

He found work in Broadway pit bands in 1958, and also played with Gil Evans that year. In 1961, he co-founded the Composers Workshop Ensemble. In the 1960s, Smith accompanied Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Lloyd Price, and Nat King Cole; he worked with Sam Rivers from 1964–1976 and with Gil Evans again from 1968 to 1976. In 1969, he played with Janis Joplin and in 1971 with King Curtis and Tony Williams. He was also a founding member of Max Roach's percussion ensemble, M'Boom, in 1970.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Smith had a loft called Studio Wis that acted as a performing and recording space for many young New York jazz musicians, such as Wadada Leo Smith and Oliver Lake. Through the 1970s, Smith played with Andrew White, Julius Hemphill, Muhal Richard Abrams, Nancy Wilson, Quincy Jones, Count Basie, and Carmen McRae. Other credits include extensive work with rock and pop musicians and time spent with Anthony Braxton, Charles Mingus, Henry Threadgill, Van Morrison, and Joe Zawinul. He continued to work on Broadway into the 1990s, and has performed with a number of classical ensembles.

Smith taught in the New York City public school system from 1958 to 1968, at Third Street Settlement from 1960 to 1967, at Adelphi University in 1970–1971, and at SUNY-Old Westbury from 1971.


As leader[edit]

  • 1973: Warren Smith and the Composer's Workshop Ensemble (Strata East)
  • 1974: We've Been Around (& the Composer's Workshop Ensemble) (Strata East)
  • 1975: Folks Song (Baystate)
  • 1979: Warren Smith and Masami Nakagawa (RCA)
  • 1979: Warren Smith and Toki (RCA)
  • 1982: Cricket-Song Poem (& the Composer's Workshop Ensemble) (Miff Music Company)
  • 1998: Cats Are Stealing My $hit (Mapleshade)
  • 2007: Natural/Cultural Forces (Engine)
  • 2009: Old News Borrowed Blues (& the Composer's Workshop Ensemble) (Engine)
  • 2011: Dragon Dave Meets Prince Black Knight from the Darkside of the Moon (Porter) (recorded 1988)

  • 1973, 1974 & 1982 Reissued in 1995 As Warren Smith & The Composer's Workshop Ensemble (Claves) 2xCD

As sideman[edit]

With Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt

With Sam Most, Kenny Barron, George Mraz

With Kenny Barron

With Anthony Braxton

With Rob Brown

With Jaki Byard

With Composer's Workshop Ensemble

  • Composer's Workshop Ensemble (Strata-East, 1972)
  • We've Been Around (Strata-East, 1974)

With Gil Evans

With Art Farmer

With Benny Golson

With Billy Harper

With Julius Hemphill

With J. J. Johnson

With Hubert Laws

With Giuseppi Logan

With Herbie Mann

With Ken McIntyre

With Van Morrison

With M'Boom

With Jack McDuff

With Charles Mingus

With Buddy Montgomery

With Jimmy Owens

With Jerome Richardson

With Sam Rivers

With Alan Silva

With Jimmy Smith

With Charles Tolliver

with Roy Campbell, Joe McPhee & William Parker

With Phil Upchurch

With David S. Ware

With Odean Pope

  • Universal Sounds (Porter, 2011)

With Joseph Daley

  • The Seven Deadly Sins (Jaro, 2011)
  • The Seven Heavenly Virtues (Joda Music, 2013)
  • REISSUE: The Seven Heavenly Virtues/The Seven Deadly Sins (JoDa Music, 2019)


  1. ^ Allen, Clifford (30 November 2004). "Warren Smith". www.allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016.