The Little Rock music community continues to memorialize and mourn the deaths of two of its elder statespersons: bassist Ivan Yarbrough and vocalist Ramona Smith. Yarbrough and Smith were not only collaborators with one another, but with countless other jazz and soul musicians of Central Arkansas for decades.
Yarbrough (1953-2020) was a longtime staple in regular jazz circles at the The Afterthought, a bar and bistro in Hillcrest that closed its doors in 2016. Yarbrough died Feb. 29 and, as memorials attest, was known as widely for his skill as for his humility as a mentor. A concert in his honor is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday, March 15, at the Rev Room with a suggested donation of $5 to benefit the Yarbrough family.
Below, a video shared by the Art Porter Music Education foundation of Yarbrough playing at The Afterthought for a 2013 event:
Ivan Yarbrough was a beast on bass! Off the charts! Enjoy this clip of Ivan at the Afterthought during A Work of Art 2013. We love and celebrate you Ivan!
Posted by Art Porter Music Education on Friday, March 6, 2020
Soul/R&B vocalist Ramona Smith (Sept. 15, 1952-Feb. 19, 2020) was most often hailed as “Queen” by colleagues. Like Yarbrough, Smith spent time in her later years mentoring rising vocalists, as forthcoming with business advice as she was about singing.
“She is a true professional and a Mentor, and is always willing to encourage, motivate and give advice to other singers,” vocalist Katrice “Butterfly” Newbill told the Arkansas Times in June of 2019. “She is a Mother, Grandmother, Sister, Friend … Walk in your purpose, live in your destiny, be professional and aim for the Stars. This sums her up.”