|One Of Your Smiles|
By Willard Manus
Does anybody out there remember the late Jimmy Durante? He was a popular entertainer in the post-WW II years, singing and clowning in clubs and TV where his prominent proboscis earned him the nickname of Schnozzola. Durante also coined many signature lines such as "everybody wants ta' get into the act" and "good night, Mrs Calabash, wherever you are." What hardly anyone knows, though, is that before turning to comedy, Durante worked as pianist, band leader and composer in the early New York ragtime days.
Thanks to Vancover-based musician/singer Jeff Shucard, some of Durante's early works have been rescued from obscurity. Two of Shucard's recent CDs, SWEET PAPA LOWDOWN--TIL TIMES GET BETTER and ONE OF YOUR SMILES, offer covers of such Durante numbers as I'm On My Way to New Orleans, Mean Daddy Blues, I've Got My Habits On, One of Your Smiles and Why Cry Blues. Durante first recorded the latter in 1920 when he fronted the New Orleans Jazz Band, one of the first integrated jazz bands in the USA.
Shucard, who has been called "the king of retro-fusion jazz hokum," plays guitar and sings on both CDs, which also feature numbers by such other early jazz greats as W.C. Handy, Blind Blake, Jabbo Smith, Jimmy Noone and Ma Rainey. Co-starring on One of Your Smiles, is British trad jazz legend, Chris Barber, who brought his trombone to Vancouver to play two live concerts with Shucard, both of which were recorded by CBC Radio.
To listen to these records is to be reminded of how joyous and life-affirming roots jazz was, full of vitality, spirit and humor. Teaming with Shucard and Barber are a host of topflight Vancouver musicians: Dan Smith (slide guitar, mandolin), Lloyd Arntzen (clarinet, soprano sax), Dan Marcus (horn bass, flugelhorn) and Alan Matheson (cornet). The tunes they explore might be old-timey but their execution and exuberance are infectious and fresh-sounding. (Contact Shucard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-434-6808)