Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Kenn Smith

For 30 years he worked as a session-touring guitarist and bassist for such act as Chi-Lites, R. Kelly, share the stage with Najee, Stanley Jordan. During that time he also worked as a clinician, educator and journalist. As a recording artist for his own label Kenn Smith Music, he has written, produced and release six (6) CD’s.

To this day his reputation continues to grow as he is recognize as one of the most diverse guitarist and bassist in the world. Admired by many for his eclectic versatility as a musician and composer in all areas of music notably jazz, jazz fusion, ambient, electronic music, rock .

It all began when the family move to the south-side of Chicago in 1975, Smith began his guitar studies at age 13 with a visit to the local music store purchasing two Mel Bay books. In 1977 he was honored with a scholarship to the School of Art Institute where he studied Electronic Music. In 1978, the family moved to Maywood, Illinois, were at age 16 he began classical studies with guitarist Bruce Walters for a year, and later continue studies at Jack Cecchini Studio in Chicago till 1982.

While attending Proviso East High School, he played electric guitar and timpani in the Proviso Township Orchestra and guitar and bass in the Proviso East High School jazz band, were he received the Louis Armstrong Award for Outstanding Jazz Improvisation during his senior year.

In 1982, Kenn began his career teaching guitar at Robinson’s Music Academy in Maywood, Illinois, as well as performing with local funk and fusion bands the Chicago area, all while attending Columbia College of Chicago, studying music management and production. In 1987 he attend the American Conservatory of Music where he studied jazz guitar and composition. In between those years of teaching, performing and studying, Kenn became a avid fan of Progressive Rock, Electronic Music, Jazz, Fusion, Classical and develop a high level of skills as a guitarist, bassist and composer in said styles.

In 1986, he became a freelance guitarist and bassist, performing on Chicago’s jazz, blues and rock scene. But it wasn’t till 1989 his professional career took off, working as a guitarist with the Chicago Cotton Club Monday Night Open Mic Band. Sharing the stage with many future greats Bernie Mac, R. Kelly and many others who got their start there. It was also where he later formed his first jazz trio and open for jazz greats Shirley Horn, Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Cole (brother of Nat King Cole), Najee, Art Porter. As a jazz side man he played with jazz greats Jodie Christian, Guy Fricano, Johnny Frigo, Najee and many others. 1992, he was asked to tour as a guitarist with the famed R&B group the Chi-Lites, and did so until 1994. He then went on to tour and perform with many other great performers in various styles of music as a guitarist or bassist.

As an author and journalist he has written an instruction book for electric bass and numerous articles for online magazines such as Mel Bay Bass Sessions, Bass Musician Magazine and other online publication.