Brian Smith started to make his mark in Auckland, New Zealand in 1958. Apart from a stint in Australia working on the Gold Coast for two years, he established himself as an in-demand tenor player backing local and touring musicians.
He moved to London in 1964, performing at Ronnie Scott's and working and touring with the likes of Humphrey Littleton, Alexis Korner, T-Bone Walker, Georgie Fame, Alan Price, Annie Ross, Bing Crosby, Mark Murphy, Jon Hendricks, Nat Adderley, John Dankworth, Gordon Beck and Tubby Hayes. In 1969 he started working in the Maynard Ferguson band, staying with them until 1975, touring and recording.
Brian was a founding member of Ian Carr's Nucleus which won the European Band competition in Montreaux in 1970, resulting in gigs at Newport Jazz Festival and tours of Italy, Germany, Holland and America. He recorded ten albums with Nucleus. He also backed acts like Nancy Wilson, The Small Faces, Eartha Kitt, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Donovan, Dusty Springfield (DVD Live at the Royal Albert Hall), Bobbie Shew, Sandy Shaw and Lulu.
Brian returned to New Zealand in 1982 and recorded three of his own jazz albums – one, The Brian Smith Quartet was Jazz Album of the Year in 1984 – he also recorded with Space Case, Jackie Fitzgerald, Sustenance (Phil Broadhurst's Band), Shona Laing and appeared regularly in big band and small group performances.