100 Creatives 2012: Damon Smith

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Damon Smith expected to enjoy Houston when he moved here in August 2010, but not this much.

The Bay Area transplant -- an internationally established double bass player, who has shared a stage with Peter Brötzmann, Cecil Taylor and Alvin Fielder -- is also a visual artist, arts scholar and serious collector of rare art books. Since moving to Texas, he's become an ambassador of all things Houston, ranging from its museums and galleries to the improvised music and food.

Smith, who often blows minds with his knowledge of jazz and contemporary art, has a duo project with fellow 100 Creative Sandy Ewen and frequently plays gigs with David Dove, whose Nameless Sound won a Mastermind Award in 2011.

What he does: Just about everything -- ranging from photography and collage to drawing and painting -- but "music gets the most attention and formal study," says Smith, who oftentimes incorporates field recordings or video work into his double bass presentations.

Why he likes it: In Smith's words, "For the most part, it's more of a compulsion, but I love the way the double bass feels when I'm playing, the resonance, the feeling of the horsehair against strings, the vibration coming through my fingers. I hope I can sometimes get beyond what I am drawn to aesthetically to do something that feels like it needs to happen instead.

"I also really like the collaborative aspect of improvised music -- you have to have flexible material that allows other people's material to speak while still being able to stand on its own. The same sounds are always different."

What inspires him? If he had to narrow it down to three, it would be Cy Twombly, Peter Kowald and Thomas Bernhard. Bigger-picture influences include European improvised music, free jazz, modern and contemporary visual art, art history and some fiction and poetry.

Additionally, his present life in Houston -- "adventure eating (H-town strEATs!), the Menil and the musicians I play with" -- gets him going.

If not this, then what: An architect or tuba player.

If not here, then where: Somewhere in Europe, like Berlin or Vienna, where he has spent time playing music. Says Smith, "I'd like some arts funding with my fascism!"

What's next: Short term, Smith plans to tour and document his work with Houston musicians. "A recent trio album with Sandy Ewen and Weasel Walter is a good step in this direction," says Smith in reference to a March release of the trio's music on ugEXPLODE.

"Long term," adds Smith, "I'm trying to get more sounds and material from the double bass and with other musicians and artists."

More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page). Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright

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