Through studying, performing, composing, teaching and “living” music, saxophonist/composer Dr. William E. Smith, a.k.a. W.E.S., has sought to enrich the lives of others through sound. 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 flavor and is not only enjoyed but inspires the best in people.
Smith has led his own traditional jazz group, the W.E.S. Group, for over twelve years. The group has recorded five albums including “A Jazz Mass,” “Ancestors” and the most recent “jazz soundtrack” album entitled “Story of Humanity – A Human Story.”
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.
“Smith’s passion is evident from-the-jump. He has a kind of take no prisoners approach that is full of youthful fire…”
- Willard Jenkins, JazzTimes Magazine
“[Will is] an accomplished musician with a confident sound and an appealing repertoire, who brings to mind “the legacy of John Coltrane.”
- Mike Joyce, Washington Post
“Smith freely channels the spirits of Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and other masters with minimal derivativeness, but comes up with his own muscular style.”
- Eric Brace, Washington Post
W.E.S. composes music for film, documentaries, Youtube series, theater and dance. He has performed with classic jazz musicians such as James Moody, Donald Byrd and Kenny Burrell. He has also played with Wynton Marsalis, Gary Thomas, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cynda Williams, Antonio Hart and Antoine Rooney. Although reverent of the past W.E.S. has played with newer progressive artists as well like Chris Dave, Derrick Hodge, Myron Walden, Jason Linder and Ben Williams as well as smooth jazz artists Mike Phillips and Malcolm Jamal Warner.
The Story of Humanity
The Story of Humanity is a jazz/soundtrack project about our evolution from spirit to humanity and from humanity back to spirit. W.E. Smith plays saxophone and flute over soaring orchestral arrangements that chronicle this journey with inspiring melodies and engaging harmonies. As the saying goes, “we are not just human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
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Photos by Jeni Dykes Barton and Gregory Blakey