December 31, 2018 @ 8:30 pm
Fox Tucson Theatre
Quality is timeless. Just ask The Hot Sardines. In the talented hands of the New York-based ensemble, music first made famous decades ago comes alive through their brassy horn arrangements, rollicking piano melodies, and vocals from a chanteuse who transports listeners to a different era with the mere lilt of her voice.
On French Fries & Champagne, The Hot Sardines’ new album for Universal Music Classics, the jazz collective broadens its already impressive palette, combining covers and originals as they effortlessly channel New York speakeasies, Parisian cabarets and New Orleans jazz halls. Bandleader Evan “Bibs” Palazzo and lead singer “Miz Elizabeth” Bougerol met in 2007 after they both answered a Craigslist ad about a jazz jam session above a Manhattan noodle shop. The unlikely pair— she was a London School of Economics-educated travel writer who grew up in France, Canada and the Ivory Coast, he was a New York City born and raised actor who studied theater at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia—bonded over their love for Fats Waller. Influenced also by such greats as Dinah Washington, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, they began playing open mic nights and small gigs and by 2011, they headlined Midsummer Night Swing at New York’s Lincoln Center.
The name is also a reflection of the times, as lines blur between high and low culture, luxury and comfort. “The old rules – that champagne goes with caviar, or couture and takeout don’t mix – are out the window. You see it everywhere… fashion, travel, food,” says Elizabeth. “Just be yourself and do what you like,” adds Evan. “Which is really how the Sardines approach everything we do.” The title track is a reminder that when the going gets tough, the tough go for comfort food and bubbly. About the pair’s original song, Elizabeth says, “I wanted to write something that could be taken as the end of a love affair, but with a second layer that expressed what we’re all feeling,” she says. “These are uncertain times. When everything’s hopeless, throw a party.” It’s one of several originals on the album, including Evan’s instrumental homage to his old neighborhood, “Gramercy Sunset,” and “Here You Are Again,” a woozy, country-leaning track written by Elizabeth about “that person in your life who you can’t seem to break up with who keeps popping up like a bad penny,” she says. “The most fun part of the tune is I got to play a little bit of Hammond organ,” Evan says. “It was sitting there in the corner of the studio and it called me over.”
In the hot jazz movement, The Hot Sardines stand apart for the innovation, verve and sheer joy they bring to music, both new and old. “It’s a really cool time to be making music,” Elizabeth says. “Especially if you’re making music that started its life 100 years ago.”
Video: Hot Sardines – Running Wild