Cecilia Smith
Photo of Cecilia Smith
Cecilia Smith Small Ensembles
Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project
Dark Triumph
Crossing Bridges


Dark Triumph was listed as one of the top 10 CD releases of 2006 by All About Jazz

see article here

"This is a mix of storytelling and music of the highest order, Ellingtonian in scope and magnificence, unmistakeably American, a tale that should be included in every school's curriculum. Cecilia Smith's Dark Triumph is a compellingly honest look at an underdog, an everyday person who overcame sadly imposed societal disadvantages to travel in spectacular fashion in her journey. A story of uplifting beauty; a masterpiece."
— All About Jazz (read full review here)

"The project is a beautiful and up lifting story that is highly recommended for everyone. Dark Triumph, The Life of Victoria Lancaster Smith will inspire the larger questions to be asked, but in a way that is enlightening and entertaining all at once."
Jazz Review (read full review here)

"Musical tributes like this are a rare treat and when its as compelling and provocative as “Dark Triumph” it’s an utter coup of good spirits."
— Smother.net (read full review here)

"Cecilia Smith comes up with some beautiful music throughout that tells the story and enhances the odyssey Miss Smith has taken.  I found it powerful in subtle ways throughout in a true heart and soul way.  . . . It becomes an experience that reminds us of the power of music and how underused that power is today with such dreadful formula junk that passes for music.  Music is supposed to be about (and come from) the heart.  This set and Victoria Smith’s life exposed so bravely reminds us of this at its best."
— Fulvue Drive-In (read full review here)

Something About Mary Lou
Women's Jazz Gathering Hits a Festive Note as It Marks Its 10th Year

"Though it ran for three nights and presented scores of musicians in diverse settings, the 10th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center coalesced into one glorious hallelujah. If there was a recurring theme, it could be summed up in three words: "Hail Mary Lou."

"Certainly that was the case at the Terrace Theater on Friday night, when the Morgan State University Choir, standing three deep and spanning the stage, joined a big band in saluting both familiar and lesser-known aspects of Williams's genius. The legacy of the pianist and composer, who died in 1981, has always been a spiritual touchstone for the festival performances, but this year it triggered a jubilant celebration, the mood charged by secular and sacred sounds alike.

"Vibraphonist, arranger and bandleader Cecilia Smith saw to that. For the past five years she has scrutinized Williams's scores, manuscripts and "found parts" -- arranging, editing and adapting them for a variety of performance contexts. Her research provided the impetus for Friday night's multifaceted concert, featuring the Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Big Band, led by Smith, and the Morgan State choir, under the direction of Eric Conway. When the two ensembles joined forces in the second half of the program, the sheer intensity of their union was something to behold, sounding dramatically unlike anything heard at the festival in previous years. The performances of Williams's "I Have a Dream," based on the Martin Luther King Jr. speech, and her gospel anthem "Come Holy Spirit" were particularly eloquent and exhilarating.

"The evening held other pleasures as well: a solemn yet emotional solo performance by pianist Amina Claudine Myers, the big band's rollicking rendition of Williams's signature swing era classic "Roll 'em" and the small combo arrangements devised by Smith that placed Williams's music in a different, though not necessarily more contemporary, light. Numerous soloists, including reedman Bill Easley, trumpeter Tanya Darby and trombonist Benny Powell, turned in expressive performances, as did vocalist Elon Robin Dixon, especially during the world premiere of the evocative ballad "Ghost of Love."

"Pianist Geri Allen, appearing the following night, also looked to Williams for inspiration. Collaborating with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Mark Johnson, the Howard University alum reinvigorated "Zodiac Suite," Williams's mid-'40s opus. Allen asked the audience to refrain from applauding until the end of the performance, the better to appreciate the extended work's contrasting moods and still unmistakably modern harmonic schemes. Evoking memories of Duke Ellington and Art Tatum, the suite inspired a beautifully modulated and utterly absorbing performance, juxtaposing luminous solo piano balladry with rumbling echoes of blues, boogie and bop.

"Beginning Thursday night, the festival presented a variety of mainstream jazz offerings. A trio led by the young Japanese-born keyboardist Hiromi displayed an exuberant, if hardly memorable, slant on contemporary jazz. Agrazing Maze, a quartet featuring trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and drummer Allison Miller, contributed a venturesome and challenging acoustic set. The Kit McClure Big Band celebrated the swing era music of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in both faithful and refreshing ways. Singer Rene Marie, a frequent visitor to the Kennedy Center, capped the event with a distinctive and beautifully sung program, highlighted by a stirring, self-penned salute to Nina Simone.

"Punctuating the performances were two awards ceremonies. Daniela Schaechter, who impressed judges Billy Taylor, Trudy Pitts and Geri Allen with her compositional skills and self-assured rendering of Thelonious Monk's "Four in One," received top honors in the festival's first annual piano competition. One of 80 competition entrants from around the world, Schaechter will be featured at the event next year.

"The founding members of Jazzberry Jam! -- pianist Bertha Hope, bassist Carline Ray and drummer Paula Hampton -- received the annual Women in Jazz Award. Along with their band mates -- saxophonist Sue Terry and singer Ulysses Slaughter -- the veteran trio delighted the audience with an engaging performance that included yet another spirited tribute to the festival's namesake.

"Standing next to her colleagues of nearly 30 years, Hope accepted the award with a mixture of humility and humor. "This is going to be a marker for me in my growth because I'm just getting started," she said."
— Mike Joyce, The Washington Post

"Fluid and flexible in style and technique...Smith proves a versatile four mallet vibraphonist..."
— JazzTimes Magazine

"young player who really knows the instruments' giants; bright and driving like Hutcherson...hymn like dignity like Jackson...an airy bounce like Burton."
— Cadence Magazine

"Amazing dexterity, warmth and insight."
— Cleveland Free Times

"A talented stylist adept at conjuring up a rich palette of colors."

"A resourceful, inventive player...real artistry and real growth."
— Boston Globe

"Her touch and style yield a distinctive sound that sets her apart from other vibists. Smith finds a deeper groove, keeps things lightly swinging with her impeccable sense of time! She excels as a leader! Certainly deserves wider recognition."
— CD Rom Magazine


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