Melvin Smith is a master of the saxophone. His exceptional talent and superior expertise on the sax set him apart from a plethora of other horn players. A skilled artist and musician from his youth, Melvin Smith has played with the best in sacred and secular music, including Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, Oleta Adams, Norman Connors, Fred Hammond, BeBe Winans, Israel Houghton, and Byron Cage. This gift has undoubtedly made room for him, opening doors for him to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival – as a thirteen-year-old – and later at Lincoln Center. A former musical staff member of the renowned Christian Cultural Center in New York, Edward Blanco of EJazz News, calls Smith “one of the finest reed man in the jazz business today.”
Music has always been a part of Smith’s life. Growing up in Jacksonville, FL., he sang in the church choir and performed in plays in elementary school. At the age of 12, he started playing instruments. The first wind instrument he picked up was the clarinet, which was short-lived. So was his time playing the flute. But when it came to the saxophone, that was another story. He took to the saxophone quickly. His parents, music lovers, encouraged their son to pursue his musical talent. As a matter of fact, his mother played piano and his father was a music enthusiast. Serious about their faith and Gospel music, they wanted Melvin to pursue a successful music career and use his gifts to uplift the church and his community. At the time, that was the furthest thought from his mind. But when his mother told him, “One day, you will use your gift to serve the Lord,” he didn’t realize how prophetic her words would be.
The year after picking up the saxophone, his junior high school jazz band performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It was a life-changing experience for the teenager. From that moment, Smith knew he was called to the jazz genre. Years later, he received a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Professional Music. Then, he continued his education at City of New York – Queens College, receiving his Master of Arts Degree in Performance – Jazz Studies.
Prior to leaving New York City, he recorded several solo projects. Initially, he was a featured guest on other artists’ recordings, including Stix Bones, the New Hope Ensemble, and The Back Alley Players. But eventually, he decided it was time for him to shine as a solo artist. He has recorded six projects to date: Portrait (2007), I Surrender All (2008), Evidence (2010), Time Will Tell (2014). After returning to Jacksonville, he stepped into the studio again and recorded New Jack Theme (2020) and Blessed (2022). His seventh project, to be released in the summer of 2023, Perseverance, is a testament to Melvin’s continued commitment to his music.