Ruby & Smith are a different kind of duo. Its members, Daphne Roubini and Andrew Smith, have chosen to strip their love of jazz, folk and roots music to their core components: two ukuleles paired with Daphne’s haunting vocals.
Vancouver’s First Lady and Duke of Uke, Daphne and Andrew are known across Canada and beyond. They’re at the forefront of the new generation of performers and founders of Ruby’s Ukes, the World’s largest Ukulele School outside Hawaii. As the stars of vintage jazz band Black Gardenia, they’ve won countless fans with a sound described as, “The musical equivalent of taking a bath in a barrel of finely aged bourbon”.
Ruby & Smith’s musical pedigree speaks for itself. Daphne’s enthralling vocals and passion for the ukulele has led her to being profiled on CBC radio, Shaw TV, CTV and in newspapers including The Province, Georgia Straight, The Vancouver Sun, Ukulele Magazine, Uke Magazine and the Vancouver Courier. Schooled in the cauldron of London’s jazz and folk scene, Andrew has wowed crowds with his guitar, now he’s bringing his innate musicality to a new instrument as half of Ruby & Smith. Together they have graced the stages at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Mission Folk Festival, Vancouver Ukulele Festival (main stage) and opened for Dave Mason (Fleetwood Mac) and Steve Cropper (Booker T and the MGs) at the Vogue theatre.
approach to jazz/folk balladeering.”
Robert Collins, Music Correspondent, CTV BC.
“… the hippest Ukulele that you can hope to hear.”
Ken Pickering, Artistic Director and Co-Founder, TD Canada Trust Intl Jazz Festival
Georgia Mancio ~ Artistic Director and founder ~ ‘Revoice’ Festival, London, UK.
Ruby & Smith ‘A Ukulele Album’ (Listen)
‘She’s Daphne Roubini, the one with the Billie Holiday voice, all breath and wistfulness. He’s Andrew Smith, the one picking ukulele behind her, alternating between strumming and single-string leads. Together, they’re Ruby & Smith, the heart of Vancouver’s Black Gardenia vintage- jazz band and the soul of Ruby’s Ukes, which bills itself as a “ukulele haven for the hip ukester” and “the world’s largest ukulele school outside Hawaii.”
As promised, A Ukulele Album is smartly hip, straddling past and present with a deep love for ’30s jazz and a modern approach to uke that leans on folk- and blues-guitar fingerpicking. It’s seriously playful and playfully serious, bringing a contemporary touch to standards like “I Wanna Be Loved by You,” with its nod to scat, and “Blue Skies,” with its solo lagging behind an already slowed-down beat. For blues, there’s a surprisingly lively fingerpicking pattern behind “Motherless Child,” and a low, languorous vocal at the mic; on “Green Rocky Road,” Smith brings a bright, steady rhythm, while Roubini pushes back with sassy, syncopated sophistication.
But the best part of ‘A Ukulele Album’ are the nine originals, with equal measures of traditional and new. Roubini’s songs add some weightiness, in particular “Finding the Way to Nowhere” and “Ballad for Andrea,” with its haunting refrain, “This life is here but not for long.” For Smith, working in the opposite direction, it’s a way to add a little levity to virtuosic uke novelties like “Mosquito Song” and “Walkin’ Down Main,” with all the springiness of a new pair of plimsolls. And in the album’s one co-write, “Melancholy Moon,” Ruby & Smith manage to do it all at once, her low, longing heartache beautifully matched by his sweet lightness.’—K.B.
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[photo by Gem Salsberg]