Received at press time:  Due to the revised Alberta Public Health measures announced September 3, the Kinosoo Performing Arts Tim Tamashiro show scheduled for Saturday, September 11 and the Karac Hendriks performance on Saturday, October 9 have been postponed to a future date. 

Kinosoo Performing Arts presents Tim Tamashiro: When You’re Smiling

Saturday, September 11 at the Lakeland Inn 

by Jeff Gaye

Tim Tamashiro’s career has taken him from highway surveyor’s assistant to Wiseass Crooner (the name of his 1995 debut album) to national radio host, writer, and beyond. 

His “When You’re Smiling” show combines his talents—though maybe a little light on the highway surveying—into an exquisitely packaged and performed evening of theatre and music.

His 10 years at CBC Radio helped inspire the format.

“It’s a show that I wrote kind of in the style of the Vinyl Cafe, but with a live jazz band,” he said. “It’s like a radio play that tells the story of the friendships between Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin.

“It tells the story of their trajectory—how they started off as individuals and ultimately came together to be the greatest mischief-makers in the world of pop music and jazz.”

Backing him up through the songs and stories is an all-star jazz combo with Chris Andrew on piano, Cody Hutchinson on bass, and Jamie Cooper on drums. 

“I have some ringers,” Tamashiro said. “I’m really, really, super happy about this band.”

Sinatra, Davis, and Martin were the core of the so-called Rat Pack who played Vegas in the 1960s, primarily at the Sands hotel. They engaged in a kind of goofy, boozy camaraderie on stage, but their personal stories were more
complicated, and often darker, than their wisecracking antics let on.

And through it all, no one could match the style, the depth, or the charm they brought to the standards that make up what’s known as The Great American Songbook.

In “When You’re Smiling,” Tamashiro brings it all.

“There is a lot of those ‘patter’ type moments, giggly kinds of things and lots of laughter and storytelling. And I give the audience a hard time quite often as well, and try to get them involved as soon as possible,” he said.

“Then again, I’ve tried to cover the breadth of emotion. There’s some serious things that Sammy went through, especially involving racism. He wasn’t allowed to walk through the front door of the casino he was playing at, but he’d get a 15-minute standing ovation every night. They were very odd times. 

“Sinatra came along and said, ‘look, you know what? You’ve got to treat him better. If you’re going to be watching me, then you have to treat him better.’ He really stood up for Sammy. And there’s a lot of good heartfelt friendship and life lessons in the show.”

Tamashiro is thrilled to finally be bringing the show to Cold Lake after it had been postponed by Covid restrictions. But while the pandemic changed the way he was able to perform, he took it as an opportunity to keep creating and to develop his craft.

He says he had friends like pianist Sheldon Zandboer and guitarist Reg Schwager record tracks for him. With that top-notch instrumental accompaniment in hand, he just kept on singing.

“I just went out and I sang for people in their front yards,” he said. “I think I probably did 50 of them or something. I’d sing at seniors’ centres, in front yards and backyards, I’d sing at a birthday party, and I sang in a field of wheat one time. I just basically said yes to anything that came along. 

“It really allowed me to get in touch with those tunes in a different way because they were just so consistent every time. But it changed the way that I sing. I was taking some singing lessons online as well and yeah, I feel like my voice has never been in better shape.”

The audience, he said, should just come out and be ready to have some fun.

“So many times when they come out to these nights that are labelled ‘jazz nights’ people think they have to put on their serious hat and whatnot,” he said. “And I want people to really understand that this is a night to bring your friends and just come and be prepared to smile and have a really good time. 

“I really insist on putting together a show that is highly entertaining and interactive.”

So the hard-core jazz cats should leave their berets and dark glasses at home?

“Oh, you can bring them,” Tamashiro laughed. “But I’m going to make fun of them. And I’ll probably wear them.”