Thick. That’s how I would describe the heavy-hitting sound of alto saxophone player Buster Smith. He was instrumental in developing, along with Count Basie & Lester Young, what came to be called the Texas Sax Sound. Buster’s contribution to this sound was that he used a tenor saxophone reed with his alto saxophone to achieve a louder, “fatter” sound. Lester Young, who had played with Smith and Basie on the Oklahoma City Blue Devils and the Buster Smith-Count Basie Band of Rhythm, followed suit using a heavier baritone reed with his tenor saxophone. Buster Smith definitely had plenty of practice creating a bold sound from his early music days playing medicine shows around Dallas…where he had to play loud to help attract customers.

Buster Smith was a huge influence on the Texan music scene and industry and was known for teaching, mentoring and influencing the sounds many important musicians including Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Aaron “T-Bone” Walker and Red Garland. Although he did plenty of session work with famous musicians such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Earl Hines, he only ever recorded one solo album, The Legendary Buster Smith in 1959. What a powerful album though!

I remember the first time I heard Buster Smith. Jesse Miner used to DJ Kansas City Riffs (and still does) as a birthday jam song and I loved that hard-hitting sax & rhythm instantly…so much so I rushed to the DJ booth to identify the artist. Alas, that single solo album was a rare one to find in the record stores so imagine my delight when I found it online finally available for download….what a score!

My favorite tracks for dancing:

  1. Kansas City Riffs
  2. E-Flat Boogie
  3. Organ Grinder’s Swing

They’re a bit lengthy in the 5-6 minute range which is why DJs often use them as birthday jam songs.

The Inimitable Buster Smith