Retro outfit the Hot Sardines interprets early-jazz classics with a wink and a smile, their musical deftness topped by a hefty helping of great showmanship. And as their wonderfully fun album Welcome Home, Bon Voyage shows, they can sure bring it live.
The album documents shows that the band—singer Elizabeth Bougerol, pianist Evan Palazzo, trombonist J. Walter Hawkes, trumpeter Noah Hocker, clarinetist/saxophonist Nick Myers, drummer/conga player David Berger, bassist Jason Mercer, and tap dancer A.C. Lincoln—performed last year at two venues they consider key to their career: the intimate Joe’s Pub in New York, which booked them when they were starting out, and Toronto’s Koerner Hall, one of the first major venues they sold out.
In either location, the New York-based band shows no shortage of pizzazz or high style. They swing through a rollicking “Everybody Loves My Baby” and deliver a playful “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll.” Their take on the Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol classic “Caravan” opens sinuously, morphs into a lively samba, then builds into a Latin- and Dixieland-inflected jam highlighted by a conga solo and tap dancing. After a rousing rendition of “Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home,” the Sardines reprise the tune as a New Orleans brass band-style celebration, complete with audience participation.
It’s a big party and everyone in the room, musicians and audience alike, is clearly having a great time. The listener will, too.