Nick Smart

Head of Jazz


Jazz - Head of Jazz Programmes
Research Programmes - Head of Jazz Programmes

Prominent jazz trumpet soloist and dedicated educator

Active performer in groups such as the Kenny Wheeler Big Band, James Taylor Quartet and the Stan Sulzmann Big Band

Director of Troyk-estra and founder of Nick Smart's Trogon

Head of Jazz at the Royal Academy of Music since 2010, his work has been celebrated with the Parliamentary Award for Jazz Education in 2013

Nick is an internationally renowned jazz educator, trumpeter and musical director who has given guest masterclasses and performances around the world. In 2013 he was the winner of the prestigious UK Parliamentary Award for Jazz Education. Throughout the UK he is recognised as one of the leading musicians on the London jazz scene, where as well as being in regular demand as a sideman to players of all generations, he continues to record and tour with his own projects.

In 2005, Nick released his debut album Remembering Nick Drake to critical acclaim. The album featured Smart’s arrangements of Nick Drake’s music played by an all star line-up including John Parricelli, Paul Clarvis, Christine Tobin and Stan Sulzmann among others. It was described by Straight No Chaser magazine as ‘…a future classic because it really captures all that is best about British jazz….’ and by John Fordham in Jazz UK as ‘…fascinating music devoted to a fascinating inspiration.’ In December 2008, Nick released his highly praised trio album Remembering Louis Armstrong featuring Hans Koller and Paul Clarvis. His latest band, Nick Smart’s Trogon, merges contemporary jazz sounds with Afro Cuban concepts and released the album Tower Casa on Babel Records, described in a four star review in The Guardian as ‘an undemonstratively idiosyncratic fusion, and Smart plays with brightness, tight timing and subtle intonation throughout.’

His versatility as a trumpet player has allowed him to perform alongside many international jazz stars including George Russell, Bob Brookmeyer, John Hollenbeck, the New York Voices, Mike Gibbs and Dave Douglas, as well as most of the leading names on the UK jazz scene. Among other things Nick is currently a member of the Kenny Wheeler Big Band with whom he has had a long association. He plays in a new quartet from saxophone star Stan Sulzmann and has recorded on the new album of vocalist Christine Tobin in her interpretations of Leonard Cohen songs. As an acclaimed musical director of large ensembles, Nick conducts the Stan Sulzmann Big Band (Neon Orchestra) and the Troyka large ensemble, Troyk-estra, which is packed with recent Academy students. He also performs internationally as the regular soloist with the James Taylor Quartet.

Personal philosophy of teaching

In my experience the scope of music that is considered to be jazz, or jazz-related, is as broad as it has ever been. With jazz music embracing such a variety of influences, and with the flow of information faster and freer than ever, the expected professional standard has never been higher.

For me this musical landscape translates to the students very directly; at the Academy you are free to find and explore your own stylistic influences, and develop those throughout the programme, but what we expect to see is a seriousness and commitment to the project that both deepens your experience and ultimately communicates to the listener.

From my own experience as a professional musician, there is one set of skills that has remained constant and is by far the most commonly called upon whatever the context. That is the ability to step into a brand new musical situation and make it successful very fast; ‘one rehearsal and the gig’ is a formula I see repeated everywhere I go. This experience from the real world is very deeply embedded in what we do at the Academy, students are constantly engaged in new projects of their own, their colleagues and those of visiting musicians; it is a source of endless inspiration as well as training for their future careers.'

Selected recordings

Nick Smart: Black Eyed Dog: remembering Nick Drake. 33 Jazz

Nick Smart's Trio: Remembering Louis Armstrong. 33 Jazz

Nick Smart's Trogon: Tower Casa. Babel

Kenny Wheeler Big Band: The Long Waiting. CAM JAZZ

Troyk-estra: Live at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2013. Impossible Ark Records



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