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Tommy Smith: “Jazz makes you embrace differences; it makes people more tolerant.”

“Jazz gets people together, who may have different religions, sexual orientation, skin color and language. It makes you embrace these differences that people have, and makes you more tolerant,” legendary Scottish sax player, composer, band leader and teacher Tommy Smith believes. Having grown up in a poor background, jazz had become his first passport to the world when he started touring with Garry Burton. Through the years he has made numerous albums and concert appearances, enjoying each other’s company with John Scofield, Gary Burton, Joe Lovano, Chick Corea, to name a few.

Leader of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and its youth ensemble, he has a lot of appreciation for the power of jazz: “When you play in a jazz group, you need to have good manner, to be polite, when someone talks to you – listen and react – you might agree or disagree, but no wars begin on stage. Usually. Unless you’re playing in a big band,” he ends with a joke.

Tommy Smith is also the head of the Jazz Department of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and teaches there: “I always tell my students: “Tomorrow you’ll wish you had practiced harder today.” What’s really important with young people is to empower them and make them realize that they have to prepare well for the job.”

Tommy Smith is in Sofia to play with the Bulgarian National Radio Big Band, led by Antoni Donchev. Talking on Jazz FM in Sofia, he praised their talent, musicianship and enthusiasm for jazz.

  • You can listen to Svetoslav Nikolov’s interview with Tommy Smith and Antoni Donchev using the Audio button.
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