I met first Jerry at Brooklyn’s cafe in Oak Cliff in the fall of 2004.
The late great Marchel Ivery was hosting a jam session with his quartet consisting of Lyles West, Michael Palma & Andrew Griffith. I was incredibly nervous to sit in…thankfully my girlfriend (wife now) Jen Malloy was encouraging and practically forced me to show up that night. We walked into the place and I wanted nothing more than to get back in the car and go home. However my time eventually came and I sat in for 2 songs…which somehow felt like an eternity and split second at the same time. Thankfully I managed to hold it together and returned to our table…at which point a gentlemen leaned over and ask ‘hey there, are you working?’…to which I replied ‘no, but I’d like to be’. That man was Jerry. He mentioned his friend was putting together a trio and he thought I would be a good fit. His friend turned out to be Chant (Chant Duplaniter). And thus began the next 2 very important years of my musical life.
We played many DFW clubs and festivals and gained a bit of a following. Chant’s sound is high energy and always going to somewhere new musically. In any trio there is a lot of responsibility on the drummer and Chant’s group was no exception. This took me a minute to figure out as I am generally a bit more reserved in my approach. Jerry recognized that I was working to find a way to support the group with my voice yet provide the extreme energy needed…and this part is what separates him from everyone I’ve worked with.
He gave me space to figure it out when I needed it…and he pushed me when I needed it. Simple but so rare.
I recall a show at Greenville Bar & Grill…we had set up and were a few minutes from going on…I of course had my practice pad and was warming up through some rudiments…Jerry looked at me and said something I will never forget…’You can work on all the technical stuff all you want, but when you get on stage you play with your heart’. PLAY WITH YOUR HEART. This really stuck with me. Jen was making jewelry at the time and created a pendant with those words.
Jerry asked also asked me to do some shows with his smooth jazz group ‘Daddy’s Chair’. He came from a musical family and working alongside his brothers and cousins was an experience not only of music but culture. Stepping outside my normal life and being brought into a brotherhood and family by way of music and rhythm was an incredibly meaningful moment.
Every time I play a drum in some way, maybe unconsciously maybe not, I think of Jerry. He changed my sound for the better, I hope in some small way I was able to contribute to his…I will forever be grateful for knowing him and together being Chant’s rhythm section for a short while. I’m incredibly saddened by this huge loss…I will try to be thankful for the experiences we had and know that his groove, his life and his love are still here in each of us who were lucky enough to call him a friend.
Sadly we lost Jerry to COVID in December of 2020.
Rest In Peace my brother.
Sara Smile (cover)
Live in the studio – 2005
Chant Duplantier – vocals & guitar
Jerry Smith Jr. – bass
Rich Malloy – drums