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Alma Smith To Receive Award February 19

SEMJA will give pianist and jazz educator Alma Smith the Ron Brooks Award (formerly the SEMJA Award) on Sunday, February 19, at Baker's Keyboard Lounge. This award is named for the founder of SEMJA and is given to individuals who have made contributions to the Detroit jazz community as performers and educators. To celebrate Smith, SEMJA invites everyone to Baker's from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. for food, music, and an award presentation. Master of Ceremonies will be Jim Gallert, jazz writer and Detroit radio voice. Music will be provided by Alma Smith and her long-time collaborators bassist Will Austin and drummer Bert Myrick. Special guest will be tenorist George Benson.

SEMJA will charge $10 at the door to cover the costs of food and music. Any surplus will go to SEMJA for its jazz education activities. Baker's is located at 20510 Livernois, just south of Eight Mile Road. You can reach the club at 313-345-6300. Any questions about the event can also be directed to SEMJA at semja@semja,org.

Alma Smith was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and grew up in the North End neighborhood of Detroit. She took lessons from the legendary Detroit pianist Milt Buckner. In her teens she played with tenorists Lucky Thompson and Wardell Gray, and other local stars in the making in the early 1940s. After graduating from Cass Tech she went on the road with Counts and the Countess trio, including a four year stint in California. Returning to Detroit she played with clarinetist Rudy Rutherford at the Parrot Lounge, but eventually went back on the road. In the 1960s she added the organ to the piano and the vibraphone and played with Lou Rawls and others. From 1979 to 1994 her trio was in residence at the Rhinoceros Club and since then she has continued to work with her own quintet, trio and duo in clubs, restaurants, and recordings. Smith is also a prolific composer and an effective jazz educator. She worked for fifteen years in the Detroit Public Schools as an accompanist, instructor, and performer. In the last five years she has been part of saxophonist Vincent York's successful Jazzistry program which typically educates middle and high school audiences about the history of jazz. She was given the Legends of Jazz International award in 1995.

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Southeastern Michigan
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