Head of Jazz Programmes at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Nick Smart is an internationally renowned jazz educator, trumpeter and musical director who has given guest masterclasses and performances around the world.
In 2013 he was awarded the prestigious UK Parliamentary Award for Jazz Education, in 2015 awarded Honorary Membership of the Academy, and in 2022 awarded a Professorship of the University of London. At home he is recognised as one of the leading musicians on the UK 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 as leader “Remembering Nick Drake” to critical acclaim throughout Europe. The album, described by Straight No Chaser magazine as “…a future classic because it really captures all that is best about British jazz….”, 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 amongst others. In December 2008 the Nick Smart Trio released a highly praised follow-up album, “Remembering Louis Armstrong”, featuring Hans Koller and Paul Clarvis. His last band, Nick Smart’s Trogon, merges contemporary jazz sounds with Afro Cuban concepts and released their album "Tower Casa" on Babel Records in November 2013. It received 4 star reviews in Jazzwise and the Guardian, who described it as "an undemonstratively idiosyncratic fusion, and Smart plays with brightness, tight timing and subtle intonation throughout."
His versatility as a trumpet player and his work at the upper echelons of Jazz Education has allowed him to perform alongside many international jazz stars in a variety of contexts, from Jazz Festival appearances to summer school concerts. These have included George Russell, Dave Holland, 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. Amongst other things, Nick was a member of the late Kenny Wheeler's Big Band with whom he had a long association and is currently co-writing Wheeler's biography. He plays in a new quartet from saxophonist Stan Sulzmann and has recorded on a recent album of vocalist Christine Tobin in her interpretations of Leonard Cohen songs. He also performs and records internationally as the regular soloist with the famous James Taylor Quartet, “JTQ”.
Outside of Jazz, Nick has been invited to work as a session musician in a variety of pop and rock bands. He recorded two albums for the band “Spiritualized” and undertook a World tour performing on “Later with Jools Holland”, “Top of the Pops” and the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”. He also recorded on the Mercury winning album “The Seldom Seen Kid” by the band “Elbow”.
As an educator Nick was invited to establish the Junior Academy Jazz programme in 2003, it is now one of the UK’s most successful pathways into further jazz education. And in July 2010 he was appointed to his position as Head of the Jazz department. In this role he has further cemented the Academy’s position as the leading place to study Jazz, he was responsible for the founding of the Jazz BMus as an independent programme and established some highly successful initiatives including the Kenny Wheeler Prize and the International Jazz Artist in Residence scheme. As well as giving guest masterclasses at institutions throughout Europe, the USA and further, Nick remains committed to youth education through his work with the National Youth Jazz Collective and as a consultant to NYJO London.
As an acclaimed musical director of large ensembles, Nick has been invited to lead projects with big bands all over the world. He has been a guest director of European Big Band projects in Paris, Tallin and the Jazz Institute Berlin, and last year was the guest director of the Grahamstown Festival Big Band in South Africa. And at home he has conducted the Stan Sulzmann “Neon Orchestra”, the award-winning Troyka large ensemble, “Troykestra”, the Gareth Lockrane Big Band and the Julian Siegel Jazz Orchestra.
Nick is currently in the final stages of co-writing the biography of Kenny Wheeler for Equinox Publications, having just completed a PhD at the Academy which also focusses on Wheeler’s life and legacy.