Biography

There are two musicians by the name of Gary Smith.

1. Gary Smith, the harmonica player.

For three decades, San Jose-based harmonica player Gary Smith has been an influential figure in the San Francisco Bay Area blues scene. His band was the first to grace the stage at the inaugural S.F. Blues Festival way back in 1973. Long regarded as the Godfather of San Jose Blues Harmonica, he really demonstrates his harp playing prowess and Little Walter influenced tone on Blues For Mr. B.

Gary Smith has a similar style to Rod Piazza, Mark Hummel, James Harman, and Rick Estrin - all top-notch west coast harmonica players. In fact, you’re likely to see Smith playing on the same stage as them at the annual West Coast Harmonica Blowout.

Gary Smith is known as the master of the “Monster Tone”. How can one describe the unique Gary Smith sound? Well, let’s just say it’s a magnificently loud, deep, sonorous, scorching, heavy sound that no one else has achieved, at least to the degree that Gary has. He’s able to make such wonderfully smooth transitions from single hole blowing to warbling, and his tremolo playing is so perfect as to be almost machine-like. He never overplays; every note is played “for keeps”. Gary Smith also has instructional videos if you want to learn how to play blues harmonica in the West Coast style.


2. Gary Smith, the guitarist.

Originally from a background in commercial music, Gary Smith worked in a wide range of musical situations in the UK and Europe. With the formation of The Acme Quartet in the mid ’70s he moved out of the commercial arena. For around 8 years, until 1990, Gary retreated from recording and live performance. During this period, he studied harmony and counterpoint with composer John South and started developing the technique and approach to playing the guitar he now utilizes.

Since the release of his first solo album ‘Rhythm Guitar’ in 1991 he has worked with, amongst others, John Stevens, Mass, Shoji Hano, Rhys Chatham, Bill Fay, Aufgehoben, and Masayoshi Urabe.

He is known for his dense, contrapuntal style of playing and has been a pioneer in the use of stereo guitar. In recent years he has reduced his use of technology to just guitar, amp and volume pedal, creating sounds similar to prepared instruments, static, mechanical effects, computer generated sounds, birdsong, etc. - these detailed and magnified sounds he combines with the traditional parameters of Western music.

Edited by LevyNagy on 29 Oct 2010, 22:55

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