Monthly Motivation-Johnny Smith

TK Smith

I thought Johnny Smith would be appropriate for this month’s motivation.  His 1953 LP Moonlight in Vermont gets a lot of play around here.

 Johnny’s playing is so far over my head I rarely attempt to work any of it out, but years back I did work out his chord melody to Moonlight in Vermont. Of all the chops/licks I’ve stolen from my musical heroes, I’ve probably gotten the most mileage out of the seven bars below.

His chord voicing’s are a bit of a stretch at first but after doing them for a while they’ll start to feel natural. So if you want to sound like a jazzer, take the time to work this out, you’ll be glad you did. RIP Mr. Smith

TK Smith


  • No comments yet? Well, we have to remedy that. I went through a period of really digging deep into Smith, but like you, I found so much of his playing to be over my head. So put him on the back burner so to speak. With his death, I have revisited a lot of my favorite records and similarly find that a little goes a long, long way. It may be time to pick up where I left off in his method book.

  • It is hard to say who is the best 50’s 60’s jazz guitar player. Barney Kessel? Charlie Byrd? Jimmy Raney? Jimmy Wyble? Who knows….. But if someone said Johnny Smith was the best I might agree with them. The Walk Don’t Run album is a must own and of course Moonlight in Vermont as well.

  • I cast my vote for John Pisano and Billy Bauer. I love Bauer’s subtle touch on those early Lee Konitz albums. There’s something thrilling in hearing a musical giant exercise that level restraint.

    Barry Galbraith’s work on Sam Taylor’s Jazz for Commuters is also worth a mention.