Paul Smoker studied and performed both jazz and classical music while growing up in Davenport, Iowa. He attended the University of Iowa (eventually receiving a DMA in trumpet) where one of his fellow students was David Sanborn. While in high school and college he played in the clubs across the Mississippi River in Rock Island and Moline, as well as Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, getting to work with Dodo Marmarosa, Buddy DeFranco, and Al Jarreau, among others. He was also a member of the Iowa Brass Quintet, touring throughout the United States, and the U of Iowa Center for New Music.
As a trumpeter his influences include avant-garde classical sources as well as the jazz trumpet tradition, and also the saxophonists John Coltrane and Anthony Braxton. For over twenty years he taught trumpet, jazz, and 20th-century ‘classical’ music at the Universities of Iowa, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Coe College. During his tenure at Coe he founded the Paul Smoker Trio with Ron Rohovit and Phil Haynes, and they began to receive international attention, recording five albums and playing jazz festivals in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In late 1990 he moved to upstate New York and now concentrates on teaching, composing, and performing.
Since the mid-80’s he has made over fifty recordings as a leader of his own groups and with Anthony Braxton, Joint Venture, Vinny Golia, Lou Grassi, Herb Robertson, Jay Rosen, Adam Lane, Burton Greene, Dom Minasi, et al. He has also worked with David Liebman, Evan Parker, Don Byron, John Tchicai, Art Pepper, Frank Rosolino, Barry Altschul, Gerry Hemingway, Ellery Eskelin, Borah Bergman, Mark Dresser, and on and on…