New York City eight-piece The Hot Sardines comes to the Beav Sunday
If you go ...
Who: Hot Sardines, part of the Underground Sound Series.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek.
When; 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
More information: Call 970-845-8457 or visit http://www.vilarpac.org.
By way of Craigslist, a New York City actor meets a Parisian-born writer at an open jazz jam over a noodle shop in Manhattan.
In one lick, that’s the start of The Hot Sardines, a brass jazz band that specializes in classic pop and jazz tunes from the first half of the 20th century.
That simple beginning also relays the innate irony of The Hot Sardines’ success: It was started by two non-musicians looking to jam. They never set out to form a band.
Bandleader Evan “Bibs” Palazzo was earning a living doing commercials, production work on films and theater, but he was really in love with playing stride-jazz piano whenever he had a chance; meanwhile lead singer Elizabeth Bougerol was working as a writer and editor, and “hadn’t sang a note outside of her bathroom shower, aside from the requisite high school musical,” she wrote in the band bio. Discouraged with her career choice, she used music as a way to “get away from her laptop.”
Without him knowing, Palazzo’s wife put an ad on Craigslist, in search of others looking to start a traditional jazz band.
“It was pretty hilarious, getting responses to an ad I never placed … but so exciting to start discovering people who wanted to get together and jam,” he said.
A MONTH OF FIRSTS
Eventually Bougerol, who plays the washboard, and Palazzo met. The musical chemistry was instant, and the two have been playing “hot jazz” ever since. “Hot jazz’ is jazz from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s — as it was “when live music was king … with a little glamour, a little grit and a lot of passion,” according to the band’s bio.
The band showcases old songs and sounds, but they’re not an “old-timey band.”
“We don’t take these songs and go ‘what did they sound exactly like in 1922?’ We’ve digested all those decades of pop culture in between,” Bougerol said.
“This music isn’t historical artifact. It’s a living, breathing, always-evolving thing,” Palazzo agreed.
With eight band members, each person brings modern references to the songs.
“We might be tackling a tune from 1910 but then there’s a little lick from Prince that we sneak in there,” Bougerol said. “Or we might play something incredibly early, and Bibs (the band’s nickname for Palazzo), our piano player, might do an intro that makes you feel the Ray Charles vibe from the ’50s.”
In 2011, after playing mostly small venues and free gigs for friends, an unexpected break landed in their in-box.
“We got an anonymous email inquiry in late June from someone seeking a jazz band that performs songs in French for a last minute gig on the upcoming Bastille Day, and we sent song samples and whatever rag-tag video clips we had on hand,” Palazzo said. “Little did we know, the gig was Midsummer Night’s Swing at Lincoln Center … and we got it.”
The Hot Sardines played in front of more than 6,000 music lovers and voila; their fan base was set. More high profile gigs started rolling in. They’ve played regular sold-out shows in New York City venues the last few years, but now they’re taking the show on the road.
This week they kicked off their first national tour that’ll take them to 50 cities. On Tuesday, they released their debut, self-titled album for Decca/Universal Music Classics. They bring the party to the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Sunday night for the Underground Sound series.
The Vail Jazz Foundation is the nonprofit partner for The Hot Sardines performance. Owen Hutchinson, the development manager for the Foundation, listens to the band quite a bit, though Sunday’s show will mark the first time he’ll hear them live.
“Those guys are one of the greatest tings to happen to jazz in the last few years,” Hutchinson said. “They bring a certain amount of energy and enthusiasm to the jazz stage that has a wide appeal and brings new listeners to the genre. They’re awesome — the whole Vail Jazz team is going to be there and we’re excited to see them live for the first time.”
EXPECT A PARTY
In New York, The Hot Sardines often play modern-day speakeasy parties, said Bougerol, who was raised in Paris and sings in both French and English.
“Parties held in illegal lofts where you couldn’t serve alcohol or sell tickets, in unmarked buildings in Brooklyn,” she said. “There are crowds of people dressed to the nines, wearing top hats and drinking gin out of teacups. It was the closest to this day and age to feeling like it felt in prohibition times. The hard times in the world made people want to have a good time. We were inspired by all the music of that era.”
In that era, if you wanted to hear music, you mostly had to hear it live, Bougerol said.
“It really ran the gamut, from super high energy numbers — or hot numbers — to sort of intimate swoony numbers. We try to bring that party energy even if we’re in a theater with seats, because that’s where we come from and that’s what we love.”
There’s a different lineup of songs every night, and the eight musicians in the band aren’t afraid to change it up.
“All of our songs are a mix of skeleton arrangements and everyone is improvising around that,” Bougerol said. “It adds a certain vibe to the stage when you know you’re watching something mostly made up on the spot. … It’s this fun, high-wire act, as Palazzo says.”
Speaking of a party, that’s just what the audience in Idaho Falls experienced earlier this week.
“We really try to make the audience a part of the show every night,” Bougerol said. “In Idaho Falls we had 40 people join us at the end of our show for the encore of ‘Bourbon Street Parade.’ Forty people walked on stage with us and we finished out the show with a dance party. So that’s a challenge for the Beaver Creek audience.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2984.
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