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Tab Smith's career can easily be divided into two. One of the finest altoists to emerge during the swing era, Smith became a popular attraction in the R&B world of the 1950s due to his record "Because of You." After early experience playing in territory bands during the 1930s, Tab Smith played and recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra (1936-1938) and then freelanced with various swing all-stars in New York. He had opportunities to solo with Count Basie's band (1940-1942) before returning to Millinder (1942-1944), and took honors on a recording of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" with a stunning cadenza that followed statements by Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas, and Harry Carney. After leaving Millinder, Smith led his own sessions which became increasingly R&B-oriented (he never became involved with bop). His string of recordings for United in the 1950s (which have been reissued by Delmark on CD) made him a fairly major name for a time even though he had a relatively mellow sound and avoided honking. In the early '60s Tab Smith retired to St. Louis and later became involved in selling real estate. ~ Scott Yanow
January 11, 1909 in Kingston, NC