Anthony Smith has been performing, arranging, composing and producing music professionally for twenty-five years. As a pianist, keyboardist and vibraphonist, he has worked with many well-known artists in the world of jazz, and also pop, rock and a variety of other genres. In addition to working as a sideman in a large number of both local and touring groups, Anthony has led many of his own bands, performing extensively throughout the U.S., and also abroad on occasion.
Anthony is also a prolific composer and writer, having written and produced numerous albums, screenplays, stage plays, and a seven-hundred-page memoir titled “The Lizard Stays in the Cage,” published in 2013. He served for years on the jazz faculty at San Diego State University, where he earned a Masters Degree in 2010, and was the regular keyboardist for The Mighty Untouchables, one of San Diego’s premier variety pop/rock acts. Anthony also performed regularly for many years with a who’s who of San Diego’s finest jazz musicians, appearing live at many of the city’s top clubs and venues on an ongoing basis.
In 2014, Anthony relocated to New York City with his wife and two sons, and is currently establishing himself in the East Coast’s vibrant jazz scene, as both a vibraphonist and pianist.
After mentorships with Bay Area pianists Smith Dobson and Don Haas, Anthony moved to San Diego to join the acclaimed jazz music program at San Diego State University, where he quickly established himself as a standout. In 1994, he was a featured soloist with the acclaimed SDSU jazz ensemble, which performed several concerts in Taiwan. While still in school, Anthony joined San Diego’s premier Latin jazz group of that time, Koro Libre, which performed at Elario’s, Croce’s, and numerous other venues. Upon graduating, Anthony quickly got busy not only as a jazz pianist, but also an arranger and producer for various San Diego artists in a variety of genres. He also formed his own groups, notably La Vibra, a Latin jazz/rock ensemble which combined his vibraphone with the guitar of local master Hank Easton. Anthony and Hank produced a full-length La Vibra album, and performed at festivals around San Diego County. Various tracks from the album have been used for television shows.
At the same time, Anthony was conceptualizing and recording an ambitious, eighteen-song collection of R&B/jazz/hip-hop tracks, in collaboration with longtime friend Tim McMahon (drums); the group was called Cult of Soul, the album titled “Walking My Planet.” Anthony played keyboards, vibes, marimba, sang and rapped throughout the album. The music, slickly produced and catchy, caught the ear of industry executives, but was ultimately deemed too much of an unquantifiable “hybrid” to be marketable in existing niches. To this day, Anthony considers the largely autobiographical project a great achievement, a high point of his creative/artistic career.
Simultaneously, Anthony was performing with many top jazz musicians throughout Southern California, including the late Hollis Gentry III, a brilliant saxophonist beloved by many in San Diego, and who Anthony considered a teacher, mentor and good friend. Anthony also
performed from time to time with other Southern California greats, such as Mike Wofford, Don Menza, Bob Magnusson, Holly Hoffman, Paul Sundfor and many others. In the mid-nineties Anthony teamed up with Magnusson, Sundfor and (Tim) McMahon to form Myriad, a jazz quartet whose self-titled recording still receives airplay on San Diego’s jazz station, KSDS.
Anthony had the opportunity to make three records with New York-based trumpet great Brian Lynch, in collaboration with Brian’s mother Marti, a local singer. Among the musicians involved in these recordings were acclaimed drummers Willie Jones III and Mark Ferber, as well as local masters Rob Thorsen and Mark Shapiro. Anthony provided the majority of arrangements for all three recordings, and also recorded an additional date with Lynch, drummer Richard Sellers and Thorsen–a combination of originals and cleverly re-imagined standards (never released).
In the late nineties, Anthony decided it was time to hit the road and take his music to new places. He became a founding member of Giant People, an ambitious ensemble comprised of Carlos Washington (trumpet), John Staten (drums), and Ignacio Arango (bass and guitar). With the help of additional musicians from the San Diego scene, the group recorded two albums (one live and one studio), and quickly established itself as a rising star of the West Coast jam band circuit. The group performed at many festivals and top venues in the Western states, as Anthony and each of the other players began to make names for themselves in the national scene. Anthony served as the group’s musical director, writing originals and arranging the majority of the group’s repertoire.
In 2001, Anthony made the bold decision to break out on his own, parlaying his exposure in the national scene into a new opportunity as a bandleader; he formed Global Funk Council, a five-piece group fashioned somewhat after Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, a popular band he had come to know through his travels with Giant People. Teaming with ex-Tiny Universe drummer Eric Bolivar, Anthony set out on a relentless national touring schedule which seemed to have no end. Fueled by the advice of String Cheese Incident guitarist Bill Nershi, who advised that GFC “do as many shows as humanly possible, in every corner of the country, for the next few years,” Anthony bought a massive RV, assembled a crew (sound engineer, roadies, manager), and rolled the dice like he’d never done before. Indeed, the group managed to perform over 200 shows a year for the next three years, including appearances at prestigious festivals on both coasts, as well as opening slots with major acts, including Tiny Universe (KDTU), Bernie Worrell, Michael Franti, The Radiators, The Disco Biscuits, The String Cheese Incident, Robert Walters 20th Congress, and many others.
The rigors of the road took their toll, and the band’s lineup began to change on a regular basis; seven different drummers worked with the group in its first two years. Before the departure of initial drummer Bolivar, the band managed to record and release a debut album, titled “Keep on Pushin’.” The album of mostly instrumental jams, with fiery solos and horn arrangements, was well-received within the insular jam band community.
The band evolved into a four-piece, as Anthony made the decision to go in a new musical direction; the new sound was a hybrid of the existing funk/soul influences, coupled with the new influence of groups like Phish and The String Cheese Incident, who were noted for combining a variety of genres in creating a unique, jam-oriented sound. Along with bassist/composer Jonathan Stoyanoff, guitarist Josh Suhrheinrich and drummer Ryan Krieger, the band holed up in a church-turned-recording studio in Bloomington, Indiana, over the Holiday season of 2003, to record a second album, “Bogo.” The band name was now shortened simply to Global Funk. The new album was a sharp departure from “Keep on Pushin’,” more compositionally ambitious, with long, through-composed pieces exploring odd meters and many stylistic curveballs. The album sadly did not receive much national attention, despite being hailed as a creative triumph by critics and established musicians alike.
In 2005, after enduring more personnel changes, Anthony re-located to Merced, California, with the hopes of re-configuring the group and moving forward. Stoyanoff was replaced by Matt Schumacher on bass, and Suhrheinrich was followed by Aragorn Wiederhold on guitar. Krieger remained in the drum chair. Throughout all the ups and downs of managing a hard-touring band, Anthony was diligently chronicled his adventures, culminating in a yet-to-be-published “creative non-fiction memoir,” titled “The Lizard Stays in the Cage.” (The long-awaited book is scheduled to be released some time in 2011).
By 2006, the burden of keeping the band afloat became excessively cumbersome; Anthony decided to step off the road and re-connect with many of his musical associations in San Diego. It wasn’t long before he was back on the road, serving as musical director for several all-star tours organized by New Century Soul Records in San Diego. These groups included soul vocalist LaTanya Lockett and drummer John Staten. Anthony also performed shows with Staten’s own touring act, On the One, and started a new project, Anthony Smith’s Trunk Fulla Funk, with acclaimed guitarist Fareed Haque (Garaj Mahal) and New Orleans drummer Russell Batiste (Vida Blue, The Funky Meters). The new group performed on the West Coast and recorded a (never-released) album.
In 2007, Anthony joined forces with Karl Denson, saxophone master/bandleader who, through his success with Greyboy All-Stars and Tiny Universe, had paved the way for many artists and bands who would become fixtures of the national funk/jam band touring circuit. Karl formed KD3, an innovative trio which also included jazz drummer Brett Sanders. With no bass player, Anthony provided all the group’s bass lines, while playing an array of keyboards, including B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes, and multiple synthesizers. The group performed throughout the country, not only at large festivals but also at legendary jazz venues, such as the Blue Note in New York City. Frequent sit-ins occurred with established musicians such as Ivan Neville, Jeff Coffin and Kofi Burbridge. The group recorded a debut studio album, titled “Lunar Orbit,” and Anthony co-wrote one of the album’s more popular tracks, “Dingo Dogsled.”
In 2007, Anthony played on a record for Michigan-based soul/rock group Four Finger Five, then accepted an offer to record for that group’s upstart independent label in Portland, Oregon: Terrestrial Records. He had expanded Anthony Smith’s Trunk Fulla Funk into a six-piece with trumpet and and a vocalist, and took up temporary residency in Portland to record the group’s debut album, “Life As We Know It.” Much like the Cult of Soul project several years earlier, Anthony sought to combine R&B, funk, hip-hop, jazz, and certain elements of the jam band genre into a fresh new hybrid. The ambitious collection of eleven songs took several months to record, edit and produce, with the help of Terrestrial’s Mikael Naramore. The sessions also culminated in enough material for two additional, yet-to-be-released albums.
After two years with KD3, Anthony decided to step off the road and return to the academic world in 2009. Karl Denson had embarked on a world tour with his old friend, Lenny Kravitz, and Anthony was tired of life on the road. He returned to San Diego State University, his alma mater, to pursue a Masters Degree in jazz piano and vibraphone performance. Also, he got married to longtime girlfriend Teena Singh, and in late 2009 they welcomed their son, Raja, into the world.
While working on his graduate degree, Anthony became involved in San Diego’s vibrant musical theatre and dramatic theatre scenes, serving as Assistant Musical Director for the La Jolla Playhouse’s production of “Xanadu” (fresh from Broadway), and also the Common Ground Theatre’s world premiere of “Jazz Queens Cast Blue Shadows,” for which Anthony wrote the original score to accompany the standards of Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington. The music from “Jazz Queens” was then recorded in the studio by Anthony and his four-piece band, for a forthcoming Bluport Records release (early 2011). Anthony continued his theatre work by playing keyboards for two popular shows: “Sammy,” based on the life of Sammy Davis, Jr., at the Old Globe, and then “Bonnie and Clyde” back at the La Jolla Playhouse, featuring the music of Broadway composer star Frank Wildhorn.
After that, Anthony re-joined the San Diego Black Theatre Collective (responsible for “Jazz Queens”) in staging multiple readings of his own original, two-act play based on the life jazz legend John Coltrane: “Trane: A Noble Journey.” The readings featured both professional actors and musicians from the San Diego scene, and took place at the Lyceum and Cygnet Theatres. Anthony then continued by serving as musical director for Collective leader Calvin Manson’s original play “Nina,” based on the life and legacy of jazz diva Nina Simone.
In addition, Anthony managed to find time to write his own, original two-act musical, “Nuketopia,” a satirical comedy set in a fictitious nuclear power plant. Also, Anthony has dabbled in screenwriting, most recently producing two new scripts: “Chet,” a creative examination of the life and music of jazz trumpet giant Chet Baker, and “The Lizard Stays in the Cage,” a humorous “bromance” not-so-loosely based on elements of his own memoir.
In 2010 Anthony performed his graduate recital at San Diego State University, an ambitious concert of originals and re-imagined standards which included many of the area’s finest jazz musicians. In early 2011, Anthony and his wife Teena welcomed their second son, Jaan, into the world. Later that year Anthony served as musical director of the San Diego Rep’s production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Currently. Anthony became a permanent member of The Mighty Untouchables, San Diego’s premier variety/dance group, which appeared at many large events and gatherings throughout Southern California. Also, Anthony served on the jazz faculty as a vibraphone instructor at SDSU for several years.