He’s performed jazz for politicians, corporate groups, audiences all over the world, for the Queen and soon he’ll be singing for a crowd in Penticton.
Tim Tamashiro is checking off a dream of his own by playing the Dream Café Oct. 19 with fellow jazz musician Sheldon Zandboer.
“I’m so looking forward to it. I’ve always wanted to play there. It’s a great setting and Penticton is a place I feel very close to. I’ve spent a lot of summer vacations there,” he said. “It’s definitely a thing to tick off my bucket list.”
Tamashiro said there’s two types of jazz, “thinky and drinky.” He proudly says he’s the drinky kind.
His audiences are treated to not only great music, but the sharing of stories and laughs all in a cool style inspired by Tamashiro’s major influences — Rat Pack singers Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin.
“Thinky jazz is inaccessible and scary. It’s all over the place,” he said. “When people come to my shows they know we’re going to have a great time together. We’re going to have a great time like Dean Martin is in the room. My goal is always to bring out the joy in jazz.”
Accompanying Tamashiro at the Dream Cafe is a performer often referred to as one of Canada’s most versatile musicians. Sheldon Zandboer is a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, instructor, music industry professional and author.
“He’s the kind of guy that’s so talented he can just go with the flow. If I start singing Love Boat, he’s just going to start playing it with me. He’s exceptionally fun and talented.”
Tamashiro’s career spans more than three decades and is dedicated to educating people about jazz. His interest in music started as a child tinkering around on the family’s piano at their home in the small community of Blackfalds, Alta. After high school he became serious about building a career and attended Red Deer College.
For years he held a day job at MCA Records as a representative selling millions of records and rubbing shoulders with rock stars and at night he sang jazz in a number of different bands and orchestras.
Tamashiro said finding a genre or style of music that works for a singer is like finding the most comfortable pair of shoes.
“I always watched a lot of variety shows growing up. Those songs really resonated with me. When I began singing in college back in the 80s and I would sing a Sinatra song, that was a comfortable pair of shoes. As strange as it might sound, a six-foot-one Japanese man becoming a jazz singer, that’s what I did. Nobody was doing it at the time,” he said.
Most recently the 52-year-old accomplished his work on a wide-scale through a jazz radio show on CBC Radio 2 called Tonic. Last spring he retired from the show after more than 10 years as co-host.
“It was a cherished career. I’m very thankful to have had all that experience to learn all I did at CBC,” he said. “The interesting distinction about Tonic is that we never made the radio program for jazz fans. We made a show for all Canadians to listen to and learn about jazz.”
He said the emphasis was always to make the genre accessible to the general public and often that is done during the space between songs.
“The important lesson I took out of it was that the space between the songs is just as important as the songs themselves. If the story speaks to that song in a special way that connects people to it.”
A story he tells that illustrates the point is about a Billie Holiday song called Strange Fruit.
The song starts, ‘Southern trees bear strange fruit; Blood on the leaves and blood on the root.’
“It was the late 40s or early 50s when that came out. Strange Fruit is an odd title for a song. But here’s this black woman in the 1950s and at that time people like her were hung by their necks in trees by racists and Ku Klux Klan members. Poor, black people hung in trees brings up a terrible vision and if you’re anything like me it punches you in the stomach. If you just said the name of the song without any context it wouldn’t be the same.”
Since leaving the radio business, Tamashiro has dedicated more time to performing and has recently started his own Youtube channel.
About three weeks ago he experienced a first in his musical career when he was invited to perform for the Governor General of Canada David Johnson.
“I was on an ice breaker in Northern Canada. I was invited to sing on one of the legs of the C3 expedition. I saw a big chunk of Northern Canada it was really exceptional,” he said.
Tickets are still available for the show at the Dream Cafe Thursday, Oct. 19. Tickets are between $18 to $28. Doors open at 6 p.m. and show starts at 8 p.m.