Saturday, November 28, 2009

New York Times: 'Hale Smith, Who Broke Borders of Classical and Jazz, Is Dead at 84'

[“Hale Smith in about 1990” (Photo by Joseph Szabo, The New York Times)]
By William Grimes
Published: November 27, 2009
Hale Smith, a classical composer who also worked as a performer and arranger with jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Chico Hamilton, died Tuesday at his home in Freeport, L.I. He was 84. The cause was complications of a stroke, said his wife, Juanita.

“Mr. Smith, who wryly described himself to The New York Times in 1990 as 'one of America’s most famous unknown composers,' straddled the two worlds of jazz and classical music as a performer, composer, arranger and teacher. From his early teens, he played jazz piano in the nightclubs of Cleveland, his hometown, but he went on to study classical composition and achieve a national reputation for an eclectic oeuvre and his synthesis of jazz and 12-tone technique.”

“In 1948 he married Juanita Hancock. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Robin, of Manhattan; three sons, Michael, of Freeport; Eric, of York, Pa.; and Marcel, of Harpursville, N.Y.; and three grandchildren.”

“Although Mr. Smith, an adviser for the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago, was routinely listed among the leading black composers of his day, he bristled at the designation. He wanted his work, and that of his black peers, to appear on programs with that of Beethoven, Mozart and Copland. 'We don’t even have to be called black,' he wrote in an article in 1971. 'When we stand for our bows, that fact will become clear when it should — after the music has made its own impact.'” [Hale Smith is profiled at, where a complete Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma can be found]

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