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The Hot Sardines: The Hot Sardines

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In the neo-tradition of Squirrel Nut Zippers, 8 ½ Souvenirs and the Puppini Sisters come the Hot Sardines, a band whose record label claims is “reinventing hot jazz for the 21st century.” Reinventing? Not true. Celebrating in high style and with sharp talent? That’s more like it.

The Hot Sardines are a New York-based combo led by pianist Evan Palazzo and singer Miz Elizabeth, and while their music is rooted in the hot-jazz and swing sounds of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s-think Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven, Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Billie Holiday and the Andrews Sisters-they aren’t trying to copy anyone in particular. They’re more paying homage to historical styles.

Miz Elizabeth has a silky smooth, slightly kittenish voice and a coy, playful approach, and the band is flawless if not daring. “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” with its chorus of male backing vocals and Gene Krupa-style drumming, is straight off of Great Depression-era radio. Jason Prover’s growling trumpet serves as the perfect foil for Miz Elizabeth’s vocals on “Goin’ Crazy With the Blues.” She switches to French (her native language) for “Petite Fleur” and “Zazou (Sweet Sue),” which features fine piano work by Palazzo and splendid interaction by the whole band. “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” pits the singer against a fast-fingered upright bass solo from Evan Crane that turns into a calypso with full-on percussion. And the novelty piece “Your Feet’s Too Big”-with wry vocals and tap dancing-is a perfect mid-album confection. The steady rhythm guitar of Sam Raderman is a constant propellant throughout the album, and the tight, economical work (11 songs in under 40 minutes) of the promising young ensemble leaves us wanting more.

Originally Published