Singing pianist Juanita still jazzing it up at 90

“We cannot plan our life, we can’t plan our day. We can only be grateful that it goes in a good way,” says Juanita Cohen Smith, a 90-year-old pianist and jazz and pop singer.

Smith was born in New York City to a family of immigrants with Ethiopian Jewish, Cuban, Jamaican and Syrian roots.

She was trained as a classical pianist in the best schools, but as a teenager on her way home from piano classes she discovered jazz and the sound and atmosphere of supper clubs. She was hooked for life.

In the 1950s, she joined Jimmie Butts, a jazz double-bass musician. For 12 years they toured as the ‘Jimmy Butts Duo featuring Juanita’ act, performing all over America and Canada.

Smith also formed her own groups — duo, trios and quartets. With one-woman shows, she performed in America, Canada, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Israel, France and Switzerland.

She opened for Louis Armstrong and all the big artists in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. She has travelled the world with music and chose Israel as her home.

She met legends of the musical world such as Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. Now, to many, she is a legend herself.

To read more on this story, subscribe to our new e-edition. Go to

If you have a story or an issue you want us to cover, let us know - in complete confidence - by contacting, 0161-741 2631 or via Facebook / Twitter

© 2022 Jewish Telegraph