Spotlight on Linton Smith: Jazz is the first place I felt like I could really express myself

Performances of Playing Hot will begin April 18 at Theater 511. Ahead of the production, we’ve sat down with all the artists involved to get a deeper look into the process of building this jazz concert-party-play hybrid. We’re kicking things off with profiles on the members of our team who were born and raised in Louisiana, and are lending their vital voice and expertise to Playing Hot.

Earlier this week we featured co-writer C.A. Johnson. Today, we’re getting you up close and personal with musician and producer, Linton Smith II, who also happens to be originating the role of Buddy Bolden in our world premiere production. Learn all about Linton in the interview below, and snag your tickets now at the highly limited Super Early Bird rate.

Pipeline Theatre Company: Why are you working on this project? What is most exciting to you about being part of Playing Hot?

Linton Smith II: I’m working on this project because it’s such an amazing opportunity. Getting to be a part of telling Buddy Bolden’s story, the man credited with discovering jazz is exciting. I’m ecstatic for the chance to work with all these amazing artists!

PTC: What is your relationship to Buddy Bolden’s story?

LS: Well, on the surface I relate to Buddy’s story as a black trumpet player from New Orleans, but on a deeper level I relate to his story in that my musical journey has been one that has been met with a lot of doubts. I feel like the struggle to prove to everyone that your vision works because it’s genuine is something Buddy’s story and my own share.

PTC: Talk to us about jazz. What’s your relationship to the music?

LS: Jazz is the first place I felt like I could really express myself. I found the recordings had a freedom and a strong soulfulness to them that grabbed me. Then as I studied it more I found my mind stimulated by the complexities of the music. On top of all that, it’s music that was born from my city and from my culture, I couldn’t help but love it!

PTC: When did you first start working on Playing Hot? Tell us about what this journey has been like for you.

LS: I just started working with everyone in January. It’s been a bit scary I must admit, but it’s the good kind of scary, the excited kind of scary. The cast is so incredible and I believe this production can be beyond great! There’s so much talent involved in this production.

PTC: Tell us about your character(s) in Playing Hot and where/if you see yourself in them.

LS: I’m playing Buddy Bolden who is widely considered the founder of jazz. I find he and I relate in a number of ways. We’re both from New Orleans, both black trumpet players, and we both are relentless in a search for what is unique and individual within us and our music.

PTC: When did you first start playing music and what initially drew you to jazz?

LS: I sing, produce, and play trumpet. I’ve been doing music for about 14 years now. My mom got me started with playing music and in 7th grade my middle school had a jazz band and I just fell in love with the freedom and the expression.

PTC: Will you share a bit of your personal history with us? Where in Louisiana did you grow up and what brought you to New York?

LS: I grew up living in New Orleans East, but because my family is a big one I spent a lot of time in a lot of different parts of city. I came up to New York York attend The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music for college.

PTC: What has it been like for you to bring New Orleans to New York through Playing Hot?

LS: It’s been really great bringing some of New Orleans to New York. I tend to always miss being home and experiencing all the cultural elements that exist in New Orleans, so working with this play has really been therapeutic for me. 

PTC: What parts of New Orleans do you feel it’s most important to represent through this story?

LS: I feel like there is a richness to the culture of New Orleans that very few places had during Buddy’s time. In this country, and especially in the south, there were many institutions that existed not only to limit, but really to completely destroy any hope of freedom for Black Americans. I think the most important part of New Orleans I want represented is the strength in the black community that existed there that not everyone had, the strength that allowed for this music to be created, and the strength that still exists there today.

Linton will be releasing several singles over the coming weeks, and has more projects coming this summer. Keep up with him on Instagram at @lintwan.the.conqueror and. @lintonesproductions. And grab those Playing Hot tickets while you still can!