Charles Edward Smith was born June 8, 1904 in Thomaston, Connecticut and began collecting Hot Records from early jazz in the 1920s. He worked with William Russell, Eugene Williams, John Hammond, Hugues Panassié and Charles Delaunay in the Hot Record Society from 1937, from which the jazz label HRS Records was established. Along with Steve Smith, he was editor of the jazz magazine Hot Record Society Rag.
Smith was among the early representatives of jazz criticism in the 1930s, having published essays in journals such as the Symposium, The Daily Worker and Esquire. He published the book Jazzmen with Frederic Ramsey in 1939 and was one of America’s first jazz books along with Wild Hobson’s American Jazz Music.
He wrote articles on groups like the Austin High School Gang as well as interviews with early jazz musicians like Willie Cornish, Papa Jack Laine, Leon Roppolo and Nick LaRocca. With the 1942 The Jazz Record Book, an attempt was made to list a canon of important jazz records, which prompted future writers to produce further books such as Marshall Stearns’ The Story of Jazz, Joachim-Ernst Berendt & Günther Huesmann’s Jazz Book, Barry Kernfeld’s Encyclopedia of Jazz and Allen Lowes That Devilin’ Tune.
Charles also wrote for The New Republic, the magazine Jazz Information and a series of liner notes from folk music albums, folk blues and early jazz players such as Pee Wee Russell, Jelly Roll Morton as well as modern jazz musicians Al Cohn, Miles Davis/Milestones, Chico Hamilton/South Pacific in Hi-Fi and J.J. Johnson/Dial JJ 5. He also wrote the accompaniment text for the LP edition of John Hammond’s Concert Series, From Spirituals to Swing – Carnegie Hall Concerts, 1938/39 on the Vanguard label.
Author and critic Charles Edward Smith, who is considered one of the early serious jazz critics, passed away on December 16, 1970 in New York City.