Smith, Carl [Tatti] (ca. 1908–unknown)

By: Dave Oliphant

Type: Biography

Published: December 11, 2006

Updated: October 26, 2015

Carl "Tatti" Smith, trumpeter, was born in Marshall, about 1908, but his birth date is uncertain. Although few recordings exist of Smith's performances, he played an important role during the Swing Era as a member of Count Basie aggregations, both the large orchestra and a sextet composed of Basie, tenorist Lester Young, bassist Walter Page, drummer Jo Jones, and blues shouter Jimmy Rushing. Smith's early career included work with the Terrence Holder band in Kansas City in 1931. Subsequently, from 1931 to 1934, Smith toured the West Coast with the Amarillo band of Gene Coy.

In 1936 Smith joined the Count Basie Orchestra and during that year was the nominal co-leader of a sextet, labeled Jones–Smith, Inc., which played in the first recording session for legendary tenorist Lester Young. Smith's trumpet solos on "Lady Be Good" and "Shoe Shine Boy" are outstanding examples of his artistry, which in many ways complements and even matches that of "President" Young. It was only owing to the fortuitous absence of Oran "Hot Lips" Page, Smith's fellow Texan and Basie band member, who was suffering from a cracked lip, that Smith served as a substitute for Page on the famous Jones–Smith, Inc. recording session.

Smith left Basie the next year and performed with Skeets Tolbert's Gentlemen of Swing until 1940. During 1939 he also played with groups led by Hot Lips Page. In the 1940s Smith was briefly with several other bands, including that of Benny Carter. After World War II he left for South America, and during the late 1940s and into the 1950s he was playing with groups in Argentina and Brazil. No further information on this unique trumpeter has surfaced since his move to South America, and his whereabouts after the 1950s have not been reported in any reference works on jazz history.

Count Basie–Harry James: Basie Rhythm (HEP Records 1032, 1991). Barry Kernfeld, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2d ed. (New York: Groves' Dictionaries, 2002). Dave Oliphant, Texan Jazz (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996).


  • Music
  • Genres (Jazz)
  • Peoples
  • African Americans

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Dave Oliphant, “Smith, Carl [Tatti],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 11, 2006
October 26, 2015

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