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Kansas Smitty's House Band



Kansas Smitty's House Band


The JazzFM Awards in May 2018 had three nominations for ‘UK Jazz Act for the Year’ – the bands Dinosaur, the Ezra Collective and Kansas Smitty’s House Band. The award went to the Ezra Collective. For this category, the winner was decided by public vote – so what led to Kansas Smitty’s being nominated? The answer, of course, is their popularity. Here is a talented group of today's jazz musicians who play everything from New Orleans to BeBop, and play it well. Ask the audience.


This video of Party, Party, Party from 2017 introduces the band and sets the mood:




Kansas Smitty’s is a bar / venue in Broadway Market, London E8 open Tuesdays to Sundays, 7.00 pm to Midnight. In 2015, Kansas Smitty’s Band realised they needed a home for their music, and found a basement in Hackney. Now an intimate basement bar it is a rehearsal space for the band as well as a live music venue and cocktail bar. Since 2015, the band has increasingly been making a name for itself. Musician and presenter Cerys Matthews has said: ‘They dance to a beat of their own drum. Totally unpredictable’, and one review of the venue says: ‘Kansas Smitty’s combines some of the best jazz musicians from around the world with a menu of original juleps to create unforgettable and unique nights. The relaxed and intimate atmosphere of this 60 person capacity basement comes alive when members of the Kansas Smitty’s House Band take the stage alongside special guests.


Here they are playing their composition Movin’ On with guest Lewis Durham featured on vocals and guitar.



Reeds player Giacomo Smith was born in Italy, but grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York. He went to school in Boston and then Montreal. Wondering what to do next, he applied for work in the UK and moved to London. Trumpeter Pete Horsfall came to Giacomo SmithLondon from Wakefield and Oxford. He had been playing around London for a few years before the pair met at a gig. Pete invited Giacomo to play at a gig in Dalston and the experience resulted in Giacomo leaving his job in a South Kensington office to play jazz. Talking to the Evening Standard newspaper, Pete said that they then brought the band together: “We are a core of eight. People have said we’re a collective, but we’re an eight, and then if we need a friend to sub in, they sub in. It’s an extended family.” ... “All of us came from different corners of the London scene, and we all have massively different interests on the jazz spectrum, but where they all converge is on swing and traditional music” said Giacomo.


Giacomo Smith


The line-up varies from time to time, members of the band play with other groups, but it is noticeable that there is a basic cohesion that means the band can readily absorb, and inspire visitors. The core members are Giacomo Smith (alto saxophone, clarinet); Pete Horsfall (trumpet and vocals);  Adrian Cox (clarinet); Joe Webb (piano); David Archer (guitar); Ferg Ireland (double bass) and Will Cleasby (drums).



The Kansas Smitty's House Band's interpretation of James P. Johnson's Carolina Shout.






In 2016, the band released their album Kansas Smitty’s House Band Live on their own label. You can sample it if you click here.

Writing in, Bruce Lindsay said: ‘The band name might suggest a harking back to the early swing of speakeasies and joints, but Kansas Smitty's is a band that's inspired and influenced by a host of different genres from across the history of jazz - notably swing, blues and Kansas City (unsurprisingly), but also more contemporary styles. It doesn't just trawl through the jazz back catalog for its material however: every track on this album is an original number written by the band's members, saxophonist Giacomo Smith claiming the lion's share of the credits ....... Kansas Smitty's was recorded in one take, direct to tape on analog equipment - an approach that's finding increasing favor among young bands. Such an approach to recording seems to reflect and capture the band's spontaneity and in-the-moment musical interactions - all of which lead to an exciting and enjoyable first appearance for Kansas Smitty's House Band’.

Visitors to Kansas Smitty’s bar that year included guitarists Stian Vågen Nilsen and Kourosh Kanani. Here they are playing After You've Gone with Giacomo Smith (clarinet) and  Simon Read (bass).




The band play regularly at Ronnie Scott’s Club and venture out for other gigs away from their 'house'. In May, they played at the Cheltenham Festival and then to a full house at the Komedia venue in Bath as part of the Bath Festival. The Komedia is a former Beau Nash picture house, a grade one listed building on Westgate Street and retains its beautiful decor although the cinema seats are now replaced by tables and chairs. For this gig, Jason Robello replaced Joe Webb at piano and at one point racked up a boogie into a storming piano solo on Royal Garden Blues. Tenor saxophonist Alec Harper, over from New York and one of the UK's great losses to the USA, was depping for Adrian Cox, and young Will Cleasby, studying at Trinity Laban Conservatoire and a core member of the band, totally commanded the drum kit. As a surprise addition, local jazz singer and presenter Clare Teal joined the band for two numbers in the second half, and again demonstrated how musians on a roll inspire each other. Speaking of singers, listen out for trumpeter Pete Horsfall's driving vocals.


Pete Horsfall and Giacomo Smith



Watch a video of Pete Horsfall singing the lyrics to Big Bad Shake from the band's album.




The Evening Standard wrote: 'Some bars are about the drinks and some are about the experience.  Smitty's is the latter - and wow, it's one hell of an experience. Wednesdays are a ticketed music night where the house band light up their instruments and burn the house down. Forget what you think you know about jazz: trumpeter Pete Horsfall and clarinet player Giacomo Smith lead their band with a rattling, crackling energy that had the young crowd howling and stomping their feet with sheer joy. The best reason to drink is make a happy moment happier: this underground jazz cave will put you in a terrific mood to start with, so sit back, take a sip of your julep and take off'.

The band will be playing at the Underbelly Festival on London’s South Bank on 8th August and the tickets are already sold out, but otherwise get to visit them in Hackney and find out for yourself why they were Award nominated. If this is the quality of 'runners-up' in Jazz Awards, then there is no question that jazz in the UK is more than alive and well.

Click here
for the Kansas Smitty's website.

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Video Juke Box
Snowpoet - Poetry and Jazz
Jazz As Art
Full Focus

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