Liv­ing trea­sure a trove of tal­ent

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - By JON BAS­SETT

COTTES­LOE jazz mu­si­cian and WA Liv­ing Trea­sure re­cip­i­ent Lew Smith still con­sid­ers be-bop sax­o­phone leg­end Char­lie Parker to be the best-ever jazz player.

“It was 1950 and I saw him at the Bird­land club in New York, and I was so im­pressed be­cause he was a world-class per­former be­fore he got into the drugs,” Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith is a self-taught mu­si­cian and his con­tri­bu­tion to Aus­tralian and Bri­tish jazz over 60 years was recog­nised, with 14 other arts Liv­ing Leg­ends, at a Gallery of WA cer­e­mony last Fri­day.

York­shire-born Mr Smith was 12 when he started play­ing drums in his fa­ther’s dance band be­fore pick­ing up his beloved sax­o­phone at aged 15.

His first pro­fes­sional job was play­ing on At­lantic pas­sen­ger lin­ers that took him to New York – that Char­lie Parker gig – and to also ex­plore the jazz of trum­peter Dizzie Gille­spie.

A year later, mu­sic led Mr Smith to his singer wife June, who was with the Ivy Ben­sons’ All Girls Orches­tra at a But­lins Hol­i­day Camp in York­shire.

“She was an at­trac­tive lass and a very good singer,” Mr Smith said.

How­ever, the mid-’50s ar­rival of rock and roll killed dance jazz bands and Mr Smith started play­ing mu­sic in the­atres which, he said, “bored me to tears, it was so repet­i­tive”.

As a re­sult, the cou­ple mi­grated to Mel­bourne, where they had a band called Max­i­mum Load, be­fore mov­ing to WA in 1974 when Mr Smith started teach­ing mu­sic at the Clare­mont Sec­ondary Teacher’s Col­lege, and the fam­ily raised four chil­dren.

“June and I had a band to­gether – the Ap­ple Band – in which I played flute, clar­inet and sax­o­phone,” Mr Smith said.

As a found­ing mem­ber of Jazz Fre­man­tle, Mr Smith still or­gan­ises gigs and plays oc­ca­sion­ally at the Navy Club in Fre­man­tle, in be­tween daily morn­ing swims at Cottes­loe Beach.

Jazz Fre­man­tle found­ing mem­ber Lew Smith still or­gan­ises gigs and plays at the Navy Club in Fre­man­tle.

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