Thursday, April 13, 2017

Toby Smith - Jamiroquai original keyboardist, dead at 46

I'm very sad to hear that Toby Smith, the founding keyboardist and songwriter of Jamiroquai died yesterday at the young age of 46. Toby's writing and keyboard playing was absolutely seminal and one of the most pronounced influences in my early life as a musician. His incredible ability to create unusual harmonic progressions that modulated freely, but pivoted effortlessly with jazz and gospel influenced transitions, showed me that you could write a great pop song without having to reduce it to mere I, V, vi and IV as your building blocks.
I was privileged to see Toby play live twice with Jamiroquai in 2002, and at age 16 they were the most profound spiritual musical experiences of my life. In 2008 I got to play with my band Nude Continuum (later Soul Continuum) as the opening act for Jamiroquai in Ahaus, Germany, and while Toby was no longer in the band by that time, his spirit was present in the countless wonderful songs he wrote with Jay Kay and the band that continue to be performed every time they tour.
I'm not sure how he died, and since he left Jamiroquai after A Funk Odyssey I don't really know what he was up to musically, but I know that Jamiroquai was never the same without him, and a great and highly underrated musical light in the world has gone out.
Rest in peace, Toby. Your work changed my life and set the course of my love affair with music. You are missed.

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