Echoes of ancestral and native sounds can be heard in this collective of talented musicians, whose folk jazz and acoustic approach create a distinctive sound of peace and beauty. Exceptional musicians in their own right, the collaboration of these seasoned musicians exhibits the passion and spirit of a “great camp meeting in the promised land” of jazz.
W. E. S. (William E. Smith, Ph.D.) – Through studying, composing, teaching and living music, saxophonist/composer W.E.S. has sought to enrich the lives of others through sound. His family roots go deep into the history of jazz and the African-American experience. W.E.S.’s grandfather and great-uncle, owned a music publishing company in the 1920s and published music that was performed by the great King Oliver as well as Noble Sissle. Many musicians used to come by the family home on the south side of Chicago including Art Tatum. W.E.S.’s cousin Warren Smith Jr. played percussion with the Miles Davis, Gil Evans orchestra and many other notable performers. In the spirit of this legacy, W.E.S. himself has performed nationally and internationally with his group and with jazz greats such as James Moody, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell, Wynton Marsalis, and Jon Hendricks.
After leading a quartet under his own name (The Will Smith Quartet) for several years, W.E.S. decided to form a group with a different focus. He wanted the group to transcend the traditional classification of jazz from strictly art music, to music that has a world sensibility and is not only enjoyed but inspires the best in people.
W.E.S. is currently an Assistant Professor of music and the Jazz Ensemble director at American University. He also gives lectures on jazz, hip hop and spirituality at the University of Maryland, University of Delaware, and Howard University.