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Ari Smith (b. 1997) is a bassist, improviser, and composer spanning genres of jazz, experimental, and contemporary classical music, currently based in Madison, Wisconsin, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering at UW Madison. In the Wisconsin area, Ari has been a particularly active member of the free jazz and free improvisation scenes, having shared the stage with artists such as Hanah Jon Taylor, Vincent Davis, Jim Baker, Isaiah Collier, Justin Dillard, Emma Dayhuff, and Junius Paul. In his through-composed work, Ari strives to explore scores as boundary objects/“power tools” that redistribute agencies across humans and nonhumans, and the potentialities of academic citation styles as a demonstration of dedication to others as well as a creative-expressive practice, within pieces that are underpinned by deeply interdisciplinary conceptual webs.
Before moving to Wisconsin, Ari graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory in 2019 with both a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Bass. At Oberlin, he studied bass performance under Dr. Peter Dominguez as well as studying classical composition with Dr. Stephen Hartke. Additionally, he was a member of the inaugural iteration of Oberlin’s Sonny Rollins Scholarship Ensemble, which combined touring performance with community outreach, in line with Rollins’ tenet of “service to the world with and without music”.
Ari’s additional musical projects and involvements include: Laminal Animil, an experimental improvised music trio with Luke Leavitt (keyboards) and Tim Russell (percussion); Luke Leavitt’s synth-pop band Luke and the Levitations; Helen Feest’s vocal jazz group the Feestet; and a yet unnamed indie rock project with Caide Jackson, Ray Stevens, and Trevor Maliborski. Ari’s duo album with Tim Russell, Junct, was included in Tone Madison’s Top 20 Local Albums of 2020 list.