Joel LaRue Smith, Composer

The Pint Collaborative

Born in New York City, Joel LaRue Smith began playing piano at age 5. On graduating from the High School of Performing Arts, he studied piano, arranging, and composition at City College of New York, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. He went on to earn a Master of Music degree at the Manhattan School of Music. Joel then pursued independent study with Mario Bauza, Jaki Byard, Barry Harris, David del Tredici, Charlie Palmieri, and Ron Carter.


A pianist, composer, arranger, producer, and educator, he has toured extensively, performing jazz, classical, gospel and Afro Cuban repertoire throughout the U.S. and the world. Joel has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Whitney Museum, The White House, and London’s Royal Albert Hall, and at The Hellenic Music Festival in Athens, as well as at the 2013 and 2011 Costa Rica International Jazz Festival, the 2011 Guatemala International Music Festival, and various noted jazz clubs like the Blue Note, The Village Gate, the Jazz Dock in Prague, and The Blue Frog in Mumbai.  He has performed with the New York Philharmonic, The Toledo Symphony, The French National Orchestra, Mario Bauza, Kenny Burrell, Tito Puente, Junior Cook and Wayne Andre.


Joel was the featured pianist in the 2011 Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert in Boston, and since 2013, he has served as Cultural Envoy to Central America for the U.S. Embassy and Department of State.


The recipient of six Meet the Composer grants,  Joel won the grand prize in musical composition from the Queens Council for the Arts, a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship Program Finalist Award in Music Composition, Boston Foundation Live Arts grant for his Afro Latin jazz suite Pasajes,  ASCAP’s distinguished George and Ira Gershwin Award, and in 2022 was named Artist in Residence in the Tufts in Talloires program. 


His debut album September’s Child features seven original Afro-Cuban Jazz compositions, and his album The Motorman’s Son was named to Preston Frazier’s Best Jazz of 2017. His book on improvisation, Jazz: Then, Now, Tomorrow, is scheduled for release in September 2022.