Fiery and slick, The Hot Sardines open Vail Square series
Growing up in France, attending school in London and settling in New York City, Elizabeth Bougerol had arrived into the corporate world with every intention to “be the girl with the steady job.” Then Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong began beckoning her from the past … toward the future.
“I listened obsessively to this stuff, kind of in secret,” Bougerol says. “There was no grand plan of starting a band and touring.”
Bougerol and New York City native Evan Palazzo met after responding to a Craigslist ad for a jazz jam session. The two immediately bonded over their love for early jazz.
“Each of us had an itch to find others to play this music with. We started going to open mic nights, adding musicians and developing material,” Bougerol says.
The Hot Sardines were born. It was 2007. With Palazzo on stride piano and Bougerol on vocals after “secretly” refining her voice to the unique inflections of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, it wasn’t long before the band was headlining at Lincoln Center and heralded as one of the greatest jazz acts to come out of New York City.
Typically recording and performing as an eight-piece ensemble, The Hot Sardines dish out sizzling renditions of The Andrews Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “People Will Say We’re In Love” and have even partnered actor Alan Cumming, a devout Hot Sardines fan, for a sultry cabaret version of “When I Get Low, I Get High.” While the Sardines have produced numerous originals that range from rollicking instrumental masterpieces to country western-twanged romance numbers and have doctored up rock classics with fiery brass flare and swinging verses, they specialize in the 100-year-old jazz sound. Coming at it with impeccably tight musicianship from every individual on stage – including the lightning-fast marionette moves of the live tap dancer – the band breathes new life into the early jazz style.
When asked why it means so much to her to bring back the old jazz sound, Bougerol says she finds the question “deeply philosophical.”
“I haven’t arrived at a definitive theory,” she says. “This music is about connection. It’s very welcoming music. If you think of some of the more recent jazz or later jazz, it can appeal to a more intellectual experience of music … it’s not about connecting everyone in the room necessarily.”
She points out that in its historical incubation phase, jazz music and pop music were one and the same.
“It was pop music for a reason. It’s a joyous, connective experience. And these days people are starved for that sense of connection more than they know.”
The Hot Sardines have performed all over the world, notching more than 100 gigs a year, making connections and gathering new fans everywhere they go. Their 2014 self-titled album debuted in the top 10 on the Billboard Jazz Chart and remained there for more than a year and 2016’s French Fries and Champagne debuted at No. 5 on Billboard’s Jazz Traditional Chart, No. 6 on Jazz Current & Top 20 Heatseekers Chart and was No. 1 on both iTunes & Amazon jazz charts. Roll into any of their gigs and you will find an audience comprised mostly of the young and the young at heart, passionate and committed to this energetic collective of swing revivalists, looking every bit like a jazz club might have in 1920.
“Everyone has some working knowledge of this music,” Bougerol says. They heard it in a commercial. Their grandmother played it. The stories in this music are so universal and timeless. When it’s live, there is something in it. To be in a room [or tent] with a three-piece brass section, there is something new every time.”
To better exemplify the connective power of a Hot Sardines performance, Bougerol relays a compliment she was recently paid by an audience member.
“One person came up and said, ‘while you were playing, I thought of every person I love.’ That gives you a clue about the connection. It’s really special.”
The Hot Sardines in Vail
Don’t miss the eight-piece force of swinging vigor, tap dancer and all, that is The Hot Sardines. The New York City-based ensemble performs at 6 p.m. July 5 at Vail Square in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $25, preferred seats $40 and premium seats $50. Presented by The Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea, the performance kicks off the 2018 Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series, which takes place every Thursday evening through Aug. 23 in the all-weather Jazz Tent in The Arrabelle courtyard in Lionshead. Drinks are available for purchase.