Indeed, and with this impressive opening chapter, the story was only beginning. In 1989, Smith, still only twenty-two, signed to the legendary Blue Note Records. Recorded with producer Gary Burton’s guidance and featuring Smith leading a band comprising jazz luminaries, John Scofield (guitar), Eddie Gomez (Bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), his Blue Note debut, Step by Step, catapulted Smith to the attention of an international audience.
Three further albums followed for Blue Note, Peeping Tom (1990), Standards (1991) and Paris (1992). During this period Smith also hosted a series of BBC TV specials called Jazz Types, in which he played with such guests as pianists Tommy Flanagan and Chick Corea, alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, bassist Arild Andersen, his old boss Gary Burton, pop/soul group Hue & Cry, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
He recorded and toured with Hue & Cry, led by brothers Pat and Greg Kane, the American vibist Joe Locke, percussionist Trilok Gurtu and bassist Arild Andersen, among many others. In addition to his jazz-based commitments at this point, Smith also examined classical composition, leading to his first saxophone concerto, Unirsi In Matrimonio, and a suite for saxophone and strings, Un Ecossais A Paris. These works were followed by Sonata No. 1 – Hall of Mirrors, and Sonata No. 1 – Dreaming with Open Eyes, which is regularly played by the saxophonist Gerard McChrystal and virtuoso pianist Murray McLachlan.