Jabbo Smith, 82, trumpeter and vocalist who was considered Louis Armstrong’s only rival as a jazz improviser, died Jan. 16 in New York of pneumonia.
The peak of Smith’s career was from the mid-1920s through the ’30s. He later incorporated some of Armstrong’s style into his own singing and musicianship.
Born Cladys Smith in Pembroke, Ga., he began playing professionally at age 16 with Charlie Johnson’s band. In 1928, he toured in the James P. Johnson revue “Keep Shufflin’.” Smith worked with many of the major bands of the ’30s, including Earl Hines, Charlie Elgar and Claude Hopkins. After 1940, he played only occasionally with small groups in Milwaukee.
Smith retired in the 1950s but gained renewed fame when he joined the cast of “One Mo’ Time” in 1979 at the Village Gate in Manhattan. He later toured with the revue.
In the ’80s, he performed in European clubs and festivals and worked with Don Cherry and the Mel Lewis Orchestra.