As a pianist, arranger and composer, Joel’s talent and commitment bring a unique passion to music. His music incorporates emotional and cultural diversities, traveling Afro-Cuban rhythmic patterns, to Jazz harmonic music, to classical music; creating a tapestry of musical themes in his playing and compositions. What results is a sound colored with unpredictable delights, imagination, playfulness, rich textures and passion, as he searches for ways to redefine musical experience, while integrating deep-rooted traditions.
Touring extensively throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Caribbean, he has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Whitney Museum in New York; The White House; Symphony Hall in San Francisco and Boston; The Royal Albert Hall in London; Multi-Cultural Festivals; and various noted jazz clubs like the Blue Note and Carlos One in New York City. He has performed with the New York Philharmonic at the Apollo Theatre in New York, The Toledo Symphony, The French National Orchestra, Mario Bauza, Kenny Burrell, Junior Cook and Wayne Andre. In 1993 a World Premiere of Joel’s original compositions were featured in Italy.
Joel LaRue Smith has been the Director of Big Band & Jazz Studies at Tufts University since 1996. Under his direction, the Tufts Big Band toured Cuba ‘03 and Prague ’04 & ’07 and was invited to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center in ‘07. In the summer of 2006 the Tufts University Big Band debut CD will be released. His credits include being the Keyboardist/Bandleader to the Boy’s Choir of Harlem, composing for cable television, commercial jingles, a series of Spanish children’s stories and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”. He was the 1986, 1990, 1992 and 1994 recipient of the “Meet the Composer Award” for compositions written for the Andrew Janetti Modern Dance Company, House on Fire Dance Company, The Langston Hughes Library & Cultural Center, the Queens Borough Public Library Classical Series and the Borough of Manhattan Community College – Tribeca Performing Arts Center. He was also the recipient of Meet the Composer’s 1992 Education Grant. ASCAP awarded him Honorable Mention in the 1991 Young Composer’s Competition and he received the Mark Brunswick Award for original compositions from 1991-1993. He was the recipient of the 1992 Queens Council on the Art Grant (composer category), in addition to scoring a documentary film on Queens Landmarks. In 1993 ASCAP awarded him their George and Ira Gershwin Award for original composition. Joel was selected as the 1993 Artist-in-Residence for the Warner Music Group, Inc. and the NYC Parks Department Performance Project. In 1994 Joel was commissioned to score the music for Noel Coward’s play “Hayfever” performed at The Player’s Club. In 1995 he was commissioned by NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to score the music for Aishah Rahman’s play “Unfinished Women Cry in No Man’s Land While a Bird Dies in a Guilded Cage” … a jazz score reflecting the impact of Charlie Parker and his death. The Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation selected Joel as a winner in their regional jazz competition to be featured in their 1995 Jazz Showcase in conjunction with the Jazz Times Convention. BET on Jazz selected Joel’s quintet to appear on “Jazz Discovery” in 1996 & 1997.
The Joel LaRue Smith Ensemble debuted during American Music Week at the Harlem School of the Arts. Since then, their music has graced many prestigious functions, festivals, concerts, schools and universities throughout the USA; they include Tufts University, The Kennedy Center, Northeastern University, The Somerville Museum, The Perishable Theatre in RI, Riverbank State Park’s Sunset Concert Series, The Newark Museum Summer Jazz Series, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Columbia University, Harvard University, Gracie Mansion, The Fairview Summer Jazz Festival, The Welcomat & WRTI Summer Concert Series in Rittenhouse Square Park in Philadelphia, a televised concert at Saint Peter’s Church for QPTV and the World Trade Center Summer Music Series. Joel debuted three original compositions at CAMI Hall , NYC in 1992. A solo piano performance for Harlem Piano at Harlem School of the Arts was recorded live for WNYC. In 1995 the Louisiana Decentralized Arts Funding Program funded Joel’s quartet to perform in concert at the Peabody Magnet High School and to give a clinic on jazz and jazz history to the students and musical directors of the school district. This event was covered on NBC News, KBCE-102 & KTLD-AM. Radio interviews and performances include WBAI, WNYC, WRTI, WKCR, WERS–The Jazz Oasis and WGBH – Jazz Gallery. Club engagements include Birdland, Iridium, Metronome, the 5 Spot, Ortlieb’s Jazz Haus, The West End Gate, Metropolis, SOB’s Café de la Paix, Sophia’s, Jezebel’s, The Fleet Center, The Top of the Hub, Ryles, The Good Life, Les Zygomates, and Limbos. His debut CD, “September’s Child”, featuring several original compositions, will be released in fall 2008.