Frank. Dean. Sammy. On their own, just names, relatively common ones at that. Together, they bring to mind a group of people who achieved legendary status in their career. Combined with their last names, Sinatra, Martin and Davis, they’re the Rat Pack, a group of influential musicians and actors that were an integral part of American culture.
Tim Tamashiro’s show, When You’re Smiling, is a tribute to that famous trio. Tamashiro will be in Yorkton on Nov. 4 as part of the Yorkton Arts Council’s Stars for Saskatchewan series, breaking in the new seats at the Anne Portnuff Theatre.
Describing it as a one man show with a jazz band, Tamashiro is combining his two careers – singing and presenting radio on CBC with the program Tonic – into one performance. It will be a mix of song and storytelling.
“I describe it is Vinyl Cafe with a jazz trio.”
Tamashiro was inspired by friendship when putting together the performance. Part of that is the friendship between the three men that Tamashiro is covering in the show, but for Tamashiro, it was his own friendship with legendary pianist Tommy Banks that started the ball rolling. He had booked some shows booked with the former senator this past January, but Banks came down with an illness, which meant Tamashiro had to put together a new show.
“I was trying to think, what can I do to replace a show with the Tommy Banks? I thought about it for a month, and finally I stumbled upon this idea of writing a brand new show, with dialog, music cues and all that kind of stuff. That’s ultimately how that idea came along.”
Unfortunately, the premiere of the show was the day before Banks died. His friendship with Banks is part of the inspiration, because it’s the friendship between the men he’s paying tribute to that drives the show.
“This is really a show about friendship and how coming together with people instead of competing with people is ultimately the kinder and more fun way forward, and it always will be. I thought this was the perfect show to dedicate to Tommy and it will always be dedicated to Tommy.”
Tamashiro wants to make jazz fun and approachable, and while he admits that many people might find jazz to be intimidating for a lot of audiences, he wants to take that intimidation away.
“Jazz is a scary word for a lot of people. Over the years, and especially with my radio experience, I learned to deflect a lot of the ideas people have about jazz. I tell people that there are only two kinds of jazz, “thinky” and “drinky,” and I sing drinky jazz.”
The difference between the two is that while the thinky stuff requires a deeper understanding of music to enjoy, the drinky variety is a descendant of the music that used to be played in all the dance clubs years ago, and is mostly about having a good time on a night out.
“I really encourage people to come out and have a really good time with their friends especially when I come out and perform in different communities throughout Canada. Number one, there’s not a lot of jazz that happens in many smaller communities anyway, but I don’t want people to be intimidated by what they’re hearing, I want to give them the answer right up front. Come out and have a good time, bring friends.”
And when it comes to good times, the Rat Pack was legendary for the times they had, but Tamashiro said that the story is more complex than just a hard partying group. Sinatra was considered passe at one point, before starring in “From Here To Eternity” and winning the Oscar.
“Everybody loves those feast and famine stories, especially when it comes to legends like Sinatra.”
To reinterpret the people of the past, you need to have great players in the present, and Tamashiro says that if someone has never seen a jazz show before, his band is a great introduction to the genre, and if you’re familiar with the music they’re fantastic players.
“If I decided to throw a song at them out of the blue, they could probably do it on the spot. They have these book smarts, they have these street smarts, really able to go with the flow, and go with the flow with the people too... I throw lots of curveballs towards them!”
Tamashiro is also excited to be the first Stars for Saskatchewan concert in the recently revitalized Anne Portnuff Theatre, and he likes taking jazz to smaller communities.
Tickets are available at yorktonarts.ca.