Eve Smith

Smith, Eve

ALSO KNOWN AS Yvonne Lanauze

Vancouver-based vocalist Eve Smith was twenty-three years old in the early 1950s and had only been singing for six weeks at the Crystal Caverns club in Washington, DC when she was discovered by Duke Ellington. Shortly after being introduced to 'the Duke', Eve was invited to join him in New York where she recorded three of Duke Ellington's greatest hits: "Mood Indigo", "Sophisticated Lady," and "Love You Madly," all of which can be heard on the recently re-issued LP Masterpieces by Ellington (1950).

"I was so thrilled to be their number one. How on earth did I get to sing with Duke Ellington?"
-Eve Smith

Eve Smith, who recorded with Duke Ellington under the name Yvonne, was at the time the only woman touring with Ellington's orchestra, which included many illustrious musicians such as Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown, and Paul Gonsalves -- all of whom Eve remembers as "very, very gentlemanly" and "very pleasant and respectful." While on tour, the band stayed in hotels (which were segregated in the 1950s, particularly in the South) and Eve would stay with Duke at one of his friends' houses. "He would write incessantly until very late in the morning," Eve remembers, often hearing music coming from downstairs until 5 or 6 o'clock a.m.

Within a year or two after touring with the Ellington band, Eve Smith moved to Canada -- first to Montreal where a six week booking turned into a three months' stay. "At this particular time, smaller sort of piano bars were opening and they needed people who could play piano," she explains. "My piano playing was not terrific, but I said I'll give it a whirl. I'll just fake it and sing a lot," chuckles Eve, who played at some of the finest restaurants and cocktail lounges in Montreal, Ottawa, and Hull, Quebec. Eve's stint in Eastern Canada also included singing on ten or twelve CBC Radio international broadcasts and meeting bassist Wyatt Ruther, who later became her bassist at the Denman Inn in Vancouver.

"This is a pretty cool place, but they need some music."
-Eve Smith

Eve Smith moved to Vancouver in the 1960s to raise a family and around 1975 she resumed her music career, which included the opening of the Vancouver Planetarium with Toronto-based bassist/pianist Don Thompson and performing at the Vancouver Playhouse and the original Vancouver Art Gallery. Her first gig in Vancouver, as she remembers, was instigating the music policy at the Three Greenhorns Restaurant in Vancouver's West End. "We used to drive all the way from West Van with the boys to have dinner there," says Eve, who had thought to herself, "This is a pretty cool place, but they need some music." Shortly after speaking with the owner, Eve began performing with her trio at the Three Greenhorns, which went on to become a thriving local hotspot for regular jazz jams and performances featuring local musicians (including but certainly not limited to) Linton Garner, Phil Dwyer, Joe Chappel, Oliver Gannon, and Eve's "favourite bass player" Paul Ruhland.


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  • Eve Smith


"Sophisticated Lady" (excerpt)


Eve Smith is discovered by Duke Ellington (part 1)

Eve Smith is discovered by Duke Ellington (part 2)

Eve Smith recorded under the name "Yvonne" with Duke Ellington

Eve Smith sings "Please Send Me Someone to Love" (Mayfield)


JazzStreet Vancouver Interview
Smith, Eve. Interview with Kate Hammett-Vaughan. Vancouver, BC. 02 Nov 2005.