Dapogny is both a scholar and a performer in love with the early history of American jazz and popular music. His passions are not well hidden, and as bandleader he dishes out droll commentary from behind the piano, replete with delightful arcana but without a trace of pedantry. The Rhythm Kings replicate the makeup of the standard 1920s or early 1930s dance orchestra, with three saxophonists doubling on clarinets, three brass instruments, and a rhythm section of piano, drums, guitar or banjo, and tuba.
Sharing the direction is multi-instrumentalist Chris Smith. Known to many as a fabulous trombonist, he learned how to play the tuba and the cornet just to work with Dapogny. He’s now a fine tubaist; his nimble control of the big horn gives a particular idiomatic weight to the rhythm section, so that on evenings when he has to take over trombone duties and is replaced by a string bass player, the sound of the band just does not seem the same.