Cool cats and delightful dames who think swingin’ jazz is the bee’s knees but are having trouble finding it performed live will want to flock to Speakeasy Night on Saturday at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Miami.
That hopping joint is where the Miami Nice Jazz Festival will present The Hot Sardines, a blistering band from Brooklyn that’s bringing back the “hot jazz” sound from the Roaring Twenties through the ‘40s.
And to fully enjoy the show in style, fans are encouraged to get dolled up in their favorite attire from that golden era, when the foot-stomping sounds of Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt and Fats Waller was the true pop music of the day.
The Sardines, featuring bandleader Evan “Bibs” Palazzo and lead singer “Miz Elizabeth” Bougerol, are the real deal, with a smoking horn section, upright bass, stride piano and even a tap dancer. Forbes Magazine called them “one of the best jazz bands in NYC right now.”
Bougerol talked to Miami.com about the start of the Sardines, how they chose their name, and some of her musical idols.
What inspired the creation of The Hot Sardines?
We never really set out to start a band, actually – Evan and I would play this music as a hobby, and what we really connected over was the joy and the spirit of hearing this music live. And that’s what we really try to put into the show – it’s just a lot of fun to hear this music played live, you know? It’s warm music, it’s welcoming music, and it has a lot of joy.
The ‘20s through the ‘40s was a magical period for music – do you have a romantic feel toward it?
I think so. It’s a romantic period, and jazz was being made up in those days. It must have been a really exciting time to be playing music, especially on the early side of that. It has a special place in music lovers’ hearts for a reason. And jazz was pop music then, and we always approach it thinking about it as that – it’s just pop music from another era.
Were you feeling a demand for it, or just doing what you love?
Oh my gosh, no – it could not have been further away from two people looking to start a band based on demand. I’ve always loved music and I couldn’t get enough – it was hard to go hear it live, because I couldn’t find much of it, and I think Evan was the same way. And each of us off in our own little world had kind of always wanted to do something like this, and honestly, for a long time we were just hanging out, having fun playing songs in his living room.
And then I think we realized we needed a band name in order to do an open mic, because we wanted to get a set list together and actually give ourselves a deadline. And it just happened that way. Fast Eddie, our tap dancer, became our percussion section along with my washboard, and then we just really bit into it. It was so much fun, and we started meeting other musicians who had an affinity for the sounds of the era. And it just kind of snowballed. One day, we looked up and we had a band [laughs].
So now that you had a band, how did you choose the name The Hot Sardines?
Well, you know, jazz bands have been calling themselves “hot” for 100 years – you think of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven, and Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France, so we wanted to nod to that era again. And we were trying to think of something a little memorable, and I saw a tin of sardines and hot sauce at my supermarket in Brooklyn, and my French grandmother interestingly enough always said to eat sardines and it’ll put you in a good mood. And so I thought that kind of works for what we’re going for, so we slapped that on there. And we never thought we would see this name on a CD cover. But hey – too late now!
Were you doing anything professional as a musician before this band?
I was doing exactly nothing musically! I was a writer and blogger and music journalist, so the closest I got was writing about it for a number of different outlets, including NBC New York Online. So I saw a lot of music and went to hear a lot of music, and was a music junkie, but one day I looked up and I was playing more music than I was writing, and I just decided to go with what had more momentum.
Who were some of your biggest influences?
Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington – it’s a long list, man [laughs]. Anyone doing anything delicious in that era is stuffed into my iTunes somewhere.