Hal Smith

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Hal Smith seated behind a drum set.


Hal Smith took up the drums in 1963. He heard Ben Pollack, Nick Fatool and Fred Higuera in person, was mentored by Wayne Jones and took lessons from Jake Hanna.  Hal also studied recordings of classic jazz drummers from Baby Dodds to Big Sid Catlett.

During his 40+ years as a professional musician, Hal has played with the New Black Eagles, Jim Cullum Jazz Band, Grand Dominion Jazz Band, Climax Jazz Band, Butch Thompson Trio, Bob Schulz’s Frisco Jazz Band and the Yerba Buena Stompers, in addition to Western Swing, Rockabilly and Blues bands and contemporary swing groups.

Hal began leading bands in 1971.  His own groups have performed a wide range of material, from San Francisco traditional jazz to swing.  Currently, Hal leads two New Orleans style ensembles (New Orleans Night Owls and the Mortonia Seven) and plays with jazz and swing bands across the U.S.

Over the years, Hal has recorded over 200 sessions on LP and CD plus numerous broadcasts of “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Riverwalk: Live From The Landing.”  During the Pandemic, Hal played drums on over 150 “Acapella” videos and remote recording sessions.

Hal is a jazz historian and writer whose articles are published in The Syncopated Times, the Jazz Rambler and occasionally Just Jazz (Great Britain) and the Bulletin of the Hot Club of France.   He is one of the founders of the San Diego Adult Jazz Camp, is on the faculty of the New Orleans Trad Jazz Camp and is a curator of the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Archive.