Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Smoker, Paul (Alva)
Smoker, Paul (Alva), trumpet, composer, educator; b. Muncie, IN, 8 May 1941. His father, Arlus Smoker (1908-1985), and mother, Alice (nee Hinshaw, 1914-1994), moved the family to Davenport, IA when Paul was two years old. He is the sole musician among his siblings, Mary (1943-2002), Martha (b.1943), and Phil (b.1949).
While he had to be coerced into piano lessons at age six, by age ten, after hearing Harry James on the radio, he was begging for a trumpet. Schooled in classical music on both piano and trumpet, he studied the jazz idiom by playing along with records and hanging out with older musicians. By age 14 he was playing in the clubs across the Mississippi River in Rock Island, IL. Besides James, his trumpet influences during high school included Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Conte Candoli, and Maynard Ferguson. He enrolled at the University of Iowa in Iowa City after graduating from Davenport High School, and stayed long enough to obtain four degrees, BM (1964), MA (1965), MFA (1967) and DMA (1974), all in trumpet performance. While there he played a lot of the 20th-century trumpet literature along with new music with the U of I Center for New Music and Symphony Orchestra. On the jazz front, he was one of the founding members of the U of IA Jazz Band, along with David Sanborn, Dale Oehler, Will Parsons, et al, and won an award for best arranger at the 1966 Notre Dame Jazz Festival. During those years he also played with Dodo Marmarosa (in Rock Island), J.R. Monterose, Doc Severinsen, Joe Morello, Al Jarreau, and many local musicians around the area. In 1968 he accepted a faculty position at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, teaching trumpet, and brass and jazz ensembles.
After three years he returned to Iowa City to work on and finish his doctoral dissertation, a compendium of contemporary trumpet techniques. Subsequent to the UW-Oshkosh post he taught trumpet, jazz, and 20th-century music at the University of Iowa (1971-75, 1979), the University of Northern Iowa (1975-76), and Coe College (1976-1990). During the 1970s he continued to play in jazz groups with local musicians (and also shows and any thing else that came along), and was a member of the Iowa Brass Quintet until 1980. He also played with Art Pepper, Frank Rosolino, Chuck Wayne, and others as they came through town. By this time, additional trumpet influences included Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Don Cherry, Jack Sheldon, Lester Bowie, and Marvin Peterson. Upon hearing Anthony Braxton's For Alto, and Circle's Paris Concert Smoker determined to try to appropriate some of Braxton's techniques, as well as what he had learned playing classical avant garde music, to the trumpet in improvising jazz. Heavily influenced by Circle's approach to the music, he started the Paul Smoker Trio in 1981 with Coe student Phil Haynes on drums and U of Iowa student Ron Rohovit on bass. In 1983 he was hired by Braxton for European performances of Composition 98, after which he started recording and touring with his trio.
By the end of the 1980's he was playing in and touring out of New York City so much that he resigned his teaching post at Coe College and in 1990 moved to upstate New York where his wife, concert pianist Beverly (b. 1947), took an academic post as head of piano at Nazareth College of Rochester. At present (2002) Smoker free-lances as a performer and composer, and directs the jazz studies program at Nazareth College. He has two sons, Andrew (b.1980) and Evan (b.1987). Since 1983, in addition to his recordings, he has appeared at many jazz festivals in the U.S. (Chicago, Knitting Factory, Ann Arbor, et al.), Europe (Lyons, Moers, Leverk'sen, Groningen, et al), and Canada (Vancouver, Ottawa), as well as other venues, and has appeared on radio and television in performances and intereviews. Smoker was first nominated to the annual Downbeat Critics' Poll in 1986. At present (2004) Smoker free-lances as a performer and composer,and directs the jazz studies program at Nazareth College. He is also composer-in-residence at the School of the Arts, Rochester,NY.
He married Beverly Smoker in 1983. His songs are Andrew, b. 1980 (previous marriage) and Evan, b. 1987.
Paul Smoker Trio (1984); QB (with Anthony Braxton) 1984); Mississippi River Rat (1984); Alone (1986); Come Rain or Come Shine (1986); Joint Venture: Joint Venture (1987); Genuine Fables (1988); Joint Venture: Ways (1989), Mirrors (1991); Paul Smoker - Vinny Golia Quartet: Halloween '96 (1996), Halloween, the Sequel (1997); Standard Deviations (1998); Various: CIMPhonia 1998 Part 1, Part 2; Mirabile Dictu (2000); Smoker-Magnuson-Filiano-Grassi: Large Music 1 (2000), Large Music 2 (2000); Brass Reality (2001); Duocity in Brass & Wood (2002)
Anthony Braxton: Ensemble (Victoriaville) (1988), Charlie Parker Project (1993), Nine Compositions (Hill) (2000); Phil Haynes' Four Horns & What: 4 Horns & What (1988), 4 Horn Lore (1991); Damon Short: All of the Above (1990); Randy McKean: So Dig This Big Crux (1991), (Y)earbook Vol 1; David Taylor Ensemble: Past Tells (1993); Gregg Bendian: Counterparts (1996); Phil Haynes' Insurgency: Live Insurgency - Set 1 (1998); Marshall Allen with Lou Grassi's PoBand: PoZest (2000); Jay Rosen Quartet: Canticles for the New Millennium (2000); Fonda-Stevens Group: Live at the Bunker (2000); Joseph Jarman with Lou Grassi's PoBand: The Joy of Being (2001); Fred Hess: Exposed (2001), Extended Family (2002); Damon Short: Go Figure (2002); Jay Rosen: Drums 'n' Bugles (2002); John Tchicai with Lou Grassi's PoBand: comPOsed (2002); Adam Lane: Fo(u)r Being(s) (2002); Harris Eisenstadt: Jalolu (2003)
He has been the subject of feature articles in Downbeat, Jazziz, Coda, Cadence
136 Garnsey Road
Pittsford NY 14534
Cell phone: 585-721-8143.