Ruby & Smith
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Ruby & Smith

Vancouver, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Vancouver, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Duo Folk Jazz


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Ruby & Smith @ Rio Theatre

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Ruby & Smith @ York Theatre

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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"Coming exactly as advertised, A Ukulele Album is indeed centred around the instrument favoured by four out of five descendants of Hawaii’s King Kalākaua. But don’t expect the duo of Daphne Roubini and Andrew Smith to sound like the house band at the fabulous Royal Hawaiian on this low-key but charming full-length. Instead, the two uke aces have crafted a jazz-dusted record made for hanging out on a ramshackle porch in Louisiana at sundown, a mint julep in one hand as the fireflies hover in the forest. This is gorgeous and effortlessly melancholy stuff, with Roubini’s deliciously slurred vocals front and centre in the mix. A Ukulele Album isn’t without its small stylistic diversions, with “Motherless Child” a skeletal exercise in unvarnished Americana and “Ballad for Andrea” suggesting Ruby & Smith aren’t completely averse to the 2 a.m. blues.
And, perhaps in the name of appealing to ukulele purists, the duo even make a wonderful case they know exactly where their instrument of choice comes from, with the enchanting instrumental “Lovelight in Your Eyes” sounding like a lost track from the Descendants soundtrack. Let Ruby & Smith transport you to the palm-swept shores of Kauai. And don’t forget to trade that mint julep in for a mai tai." Mike Usinger - Georgia Straight - Mike Usinger

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. by Kenny Berkowitz - Ukulele Magazine - Kenny Berkowitz

"Instantly captivating Ruby & Smith ooze charm with their stripped down approach to Jazz/Folk balladeering. Ruby & Smith are Vancouver’s First Lady and Duke of Uke, Daphne Roubini and Andrew Smith, known across Canada and beyond for their vintage jazz band Black Gardenia and Ruby’s Ukes, the World’s largest Ukulele School outside Hawaii. Stripping down Ruby & Smith’s love of jazz, folk and roots music to their core components, A Ukulele Album is a work of elegant simplicity, pairing reinterpreted classics with vintage-inspired originals. From joy to sorrow, heartfelt romance to poignant tragedy, A Ukulele Album is an exploration of the instrument’s unique voice and ability to evoke emotions. This is an album that took two musical journeys to create. But only one listen to fall in love with."
. - Robert Collins - CTV Music Correspondent

"The hippest Ukulele you could hope to hear" - Ken Pickering - Founder

“Evocative vocalist Daphne Roubini sounds at once retro – think Billie Holiday and Madeleine Peyroux – and yet cheekily modern and on trend.” - Georgia Mancio, Artistic Director and founder

Jonathan Aird Monday January 18th 2016
Americana UK

The ukulele has, of recent years, found itself to be a fairly high profile instrument. Once seen as very much the recorder of the guitar-like stringed instrument family, it has moved beyond that "easy first instrument to learn" status. Now, when a song needs a certain something to prove that the singer or the band is kooky and fun then it is the plunk-plunk of the ukulele that is turned too. There's also been a proliferation of ukulele "orchestras" purveying their own brand of regimented fun and, of course, there's the legacy of a certain Mr Formby and his ubiquitous stick of Blackpool rock. So, a ukulele album may not always be welcomed with whoops of joy.

This current release though is something of a different prospect; presented in a classically plain cover, and with classy photographs of Daphne Roubini - "the first lady of the ukulele" and Andrew Smith - "the Duke of Uke" - and accompanied by a lyric sheet which even includes the ukulele chord diagrams and tablature it subtly declares itself to be an album of some seriousness, eschewing the kooky and the deliberately humorous.

However, despite the title this album is as much a vehicle for Ruby's vocal talents as for the twin ukulele accompaniment which makes up all the instrumentation on the album. Ruby has a rich velvety jazz vocal with a smoky, sensuous and sometimes playful touch and with its Billy Holiday mannerisms it dominates the album. And the songs are also predominantly jazz flecked, mostly written by Ruby and Smith there are also a small number of standards, these are mostly sung to a soft strumming and a tastefully picked out melody line. There are a couple of straight instrumentals, the best of which is the lively "Mosquito Song" which shows some real flash and hot licks. "Caravan" is almost an instrumental, with a short vocal towards the end, it almost manages to conjure up the trackless desert - it's among the most atmospheric recordings on the album. "Walkin' Down Main Street" couples a smooth jazz feel with Ruby's scat singing.

The new self-penned songs are, on the whole, more successful than the covers; it's the ever present danger of recording a standard. That being said, the slightly more folky "Motherless Child" is a great success. Nothing, though, comes close to the duo's own composition "Finding The Way To Nowhere" which closes out the album. This has some interesting changes, vocally relies a little less on the smoky jazz club feel, and also allows The Duke of Uke to add some nicely contrasting harmony vocals. It evokes a lonesome, restless mood, "Searching for something that we don't even know" with an underlying hopefulness, "Soft lights are calling to me, finding the way."

Overall then, a serious ukulele album of mostly accomplished and smooth jazzy-blues which also demonstrates that Daphne Roubini has a marvellous voice. It's polite and sleek - so if you still have cultured dinner parties then this could be the soundtrack of your next one. - Americana UK


Still working on that hot first release.




Ruby & Smith:
Transatlantic Ukulele Revolutionaries

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. Their debut release, A Ukulele Album,
is a work of elegant simplicity, pairing reinterpreted
classics with vintage-inspired originals. 

Vancouver’s First
Lady and Duke of Uke, Daphne and Andrew are known across Canada and beyond. As
the founders of Ruby’s Ukes, the World’s largest Ukulele School outside Hawaii,
they’re at the forefront of the new generation of performers. 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. Together they’ve wowed crowds at the Winnipeg Folk Festival,
Vancouver Jazz Fest and Mission Folk Fest, in addition to delighting audiences
on countless stages across Canada and their native UK. 

Daphne’s satin-smooth vocals and
passion for the ukulele has led her to being profiled on CBC radio, on Shaw TV,
The Vancouver Province and the Vancouver Courier. Schooled in the cauldron of London’s jazz
and folk scene, Andrew’s reputation as a brilliant guitarist spans two
continents. Now he’s bringing his innate musicality
to a new instrument as half of Ruby & Smith. 

“There’s so much music hidden in
those four strings,” explains Daphne. “When we first started performing as a
ukulele duo, it seemed like we would face certain limitations. But once we
started exploring what we were capable of with two ukuleles we realised that
the scope for creativity was endless. It was only natural that we’d start
writing our own songs. People think it’s just a happy instrument, but it’s so
versatile. It really evokes a huge range of emotions. When we’re writing with
the ukulele it’s incredible how often something profoundly haunting emerges.”

by Ruby & Smith and recorded, mixed and mastered by Marc L’Esperance, the
fruits of that labour can be heard on A
Ukulele Album