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Jimmy Durante At the Piano / Club Durant

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Album Review

In 1961, Jimmy Durante could look back fondly on half a century of entertaining Gotham audiences, from a hot jazz combo way up in Harlem all the way down to his virtuoso ragtime solos at Coney Island (and including hundreds of venues in between). Nostalgia was never a pitfall with Durante, though. His stint at the Copacabana on E. 60th St. during the early '60s could hardly have been any less uproarious and chaotic than his earliest comedy acts. Immediately Durante reaches a gallop with "I Could Have Danced All Night," but stops the song after only a few bars with the blustery demand "Why should I sing this song and make it a big hit?!" (five long years after it had been a hit for anyone); he then launches into "It's My Nose's Birthday," stopping the show (and band) for a hearty laugh after delivering every punchline. Gimmicky yes, but Durante was also the consummate entertainer, knowing well how to start with the broad humor and save the subtleties (comparatively speaking, of course) for later. Reprising many of the routines of his vaudeville or radio-years act, the nearly 70-year-old Durante hits every gravelly note and times all of his lines perfectly; it's easy to see the comedy and performing smarts that had kept him working since World War I. He invites Eddie Jackson to the stage for a hilarious routine — they had worked as Clayton, Jackson and Durante during the '20s — and spends a few songs showing off the ragtime skills that made his name as "Ragtime Jimmy" 40 years earlier. Not just one of his most entertaining LPs, Jimmy Durante at the Copacabana is a defiantly unnostalgic look back to his boisterous youth, where his later standards records would reprise a balladry he had never previously focused on.


Born: 10 February 1893 in New York, NY

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

If any performer can truly be said to have carved out his own comedic turf, made a huge success out of it lasting over several decades, while completely owning that piece of turf lock, stock, and barrel, then that performer would have to be Jimmy Durante. There never has been -- nor is there likely ever to be -- a stylistic school of Durante; the man and his character are of one piece and ingrained in the national consciousness to the extreme. Anyone foolish enough to start appropriating any part...
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