A Chicago native, Mike Smith first became enthralled with jazz as an eleven-year-old beginning band student. And his dedication to the art form was so great that eight years later he won the coveted Charlie Parker Scholarship to North Texas State University. There Mike roomed with future notables Bill Evans and Jim Snidero, and earned a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Education.
Mike has performed and recorded with over a hundred jazz greats, including Nat Adderley, Clark Terry, Art Farmer, Tony Bennett, Jimmy Heath, Natalie Cole, Linda Ronstadt, Diane Schuur, Gloria Morgan, Kurt Elling, Nancy Wilson, and Frank Sinatra. He is featured as lead altoist on the Harry Connick, Jr. album Come By Me on CBS Columbia.
After spending time with the bands of Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich, Mike joined Frank Sinatra’s core band as lead altoist and music contractor. His stint with Sinatra included television performances and CD recordings, and the Diamond Jubilee and Come Swing With Me tours (with performances in Japan, Australia, the U.S. and Europe–including a gala in Monte Carlo for the Princess Grace Foundation.) Those years on the road inspired Mike’s third recording for Delmark Records, The Traveler. Mike continued on as the lead altoist for Frank Sinatra, Jr., touring Europe and the United States.
In his travels Mike has done numerous radio interviews featured on jazz stations nationwide. The Mike Smith Quintet has opened the Chicago Jazz Festival, and Mike is a recipient of the Cannonball Adderley Award for Outstanding Alto Saxophonist in Jazz and a winner of a National Endowment for the Arts award. He has receive critical acclaim for his album, Sinatra Songbook, which features liner notes by Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra, Jr. Mike has performed as a guest soloist and lecturer, giving master classes and concerts at the Eastman School of Music, the University of North Texas, the Berklee School of Music, Pepperdine University, the University of Miami, and University of Colorado, Boulder, to name a few. Mike has also performed with and workshopped the Navy and Air Force bands in Washington, D.C.
Mike is also a Keilwerth saxophone artist, giving clinics and performing concerts world-wide for the company. His tours have taken him to Southeast Asia, Scandinavia, France, Germany, and the World Saxophone Congress in Spain, in addition to the entire North American market. Mike is also an artist/clinician for D’Addario Reeds. He is currently active in the Chicago recording scene, doing national spots for radio and television, Professor of Saxophone at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and performing with his group, the Mike Smith Quintet.