Bassist, composer and educator Matt Smiley navigates his broad sonic world with imagination, openness and artistic vision. Smiley merges his deep roots in the jazz bass tradition with modern explorations of sound, texture and improvisation from the world of contemporary composition, making him a favorite and frequent collaborator of creative musicians across a variety of musical genres.
As a performer, Smiley has toured nationally and internationally, appearing on stages, festival performances and university residencies in the United States, Costa Rica and the Netherlands. He has performed with bandleaders and composers including David Murray, Terrell Stafford, Christian Wolff, Greg Osby and Sam Newsome. Smiley leads frequent workshops and lessons on free improvisation, jazz bass and composition, working with educational partners including Denver School of the Arts, the Gift of Jazz and Casper College.
Improvisation and collaboration are the common threads across Smiley’s recorded albums as a bandleader. His discography includes Endgame Trio’s Apocalypse Scorpion, an explosive improvisatory duo with guitarist Alex Nauman; Seafoam Blue, a collection of original folk songs with violinist and vocalist Aimee Niemann; and Free Range with Art Deco, a jazz quintet blending free and straight ahead approaches. His upcoming release Crankbait includes a collection of original chamber pieces and features musicians Josh Reed, Briana Harris, Ben Parrish and Michael D’Angelo.
Smiley was born in Staunton, Virginia, where his earliest experiences with creative music were inspired by the area’s vibrant jam band scene. He received a bachelor’s degree in music industry with a jazz studies minor from James Madison University. Smiley moved to Colorado to attend graduate school at the University of Northern Colorado where he graduated with a master’s degree in jazz studies. He is currently completing a doctorate at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Music where he studies with Brad Goode and Bijoux Barbosa.