When the family move to the south-side of Chicago in 1975, Smith began his guitar studies at age 13 with a visit to the local music store purchasing two Mel Bay books. In 1977, the family moved to Maywood, Illinois, were at age 16 he began classical studies with guitarist Bruce Walters for a year, and later continue studies at Jack Cecchini Studio in Chicago till 1982.
While attending Proviso East High School, he played electric guitar and timpani in the Proviso Township Orchestra and guitar and bass in the Proviso East High School jazz band, were he received the Louis Armstrong Award for Outstanding Jazz Improvisation during his senior year
In 1982, Kenn began his career teaching guitar at Robinson's Music Academy in his home town of Maywood, Illinois, as well as performing with local funk and fusion bands in said town and the Chicago area. All while attending Columbia College of Chicago, studying music management and production. In 1987 he attend the American Conservatory of Music where he studied jazz guitar and composition. In between those years of teaching, performing and study, Kenn became a avid fan of progressive rock and fusion and developing skills as a guitarist, bassist and composer in said styles.
In 1986, he began developing his skills as a freelance guitarist and bassist while performing on Chicago's jazz, blues and rock scene. But it wasn't till 1989 his professional career took off, working as a guitarist with the Chicago Cotton Club Monday Night Open Mic Band. Sharing the stage with many future greats Bernie Mac, R. Kelly and many others who got their start there. It was also where he later formed his first jazz trio and open for jazz greats Shirley Horn, Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Cole (brother of Nat King Cole), Najee, Art Porter. As a jazz side man he played with jazz greats Jodie Christian, Guy Fricano, Johnny Frigo, Najee and many others. 1992, he was asked to tour as a guitarist with the famed R&B group the Chi-Lites, and did so until 1994. He then went on to tour and perform with many other great performers in various styles of music as a guitarist or bassist.
As a recording artist for his own label Kenn Smith Music, he has written, produced and performed on all instruments of his five (5) releases. All are available for download at
CD Baby, iTunes and other online music sites.
To this day his reputation continues to grow and is recognize as one of the best, most diverse guitarist and bassist in the world. Admired by many for his eclectic versatility as a musician and composer in all areas of music but most notably jazz, jazz fusion, ambient , rock .
As an author and journalist he has written an instruction book for electric bass and numerous articles for online magazines such as Mel Bay Bass Sessions, Bass Musician Magazine and other online publication.
Bruce Walters - Classical Guitar
Jack Cecchini - Classical Guitar
Frank Dawson - Jazz Guitar
Frank Rumuro - Jazz Guitar
Bobby Broom - Jazz Guitar
Short Stories (2006)
If I Remember (2012)
Classical, Reggae, R&B, Soul, Jazz (BeBop/Straight Ahead/Smooth/Fusion), Gospel, Blues, Rock (Classic/Progressive Rock/Alternative Rock/Metal/Neo Classical), Ambient, World, Afro-Cuban, Pop.
Performed with and open for:
The Chicago Sinfonietta
Blues Great Valerie Wellington
Darryl Jones (Bassist for Rolling Stones)
George (Paco) Patterson
Tom Tom Washington
Kevin M. Buck
and many more...
Louis Armstrong Jazz Award
Feature in Bass Player Magazine,
Listed in the Europe Jazz Network