Old jazz for a new age

The Sardines wasted no time getting straight to their music, saving any introductions until after their second piece. (Judah Shingleton/The Daily Campus)

On Saturday night, Jorgensen hosted the final performance of the national tour of the hit New York jazz band The Hot Sardines. The band was founded by bandleader Evan “Bibs” Palazzo and lead singer “Miz Elizabeth” Bougerol in 2007. The two bonded over their shared interest in the Fats Waller song “Your Feet’s Too Big” while attending a Manhattan jam session advertised on Craigslist. Apart from Palazzo and Bougerol, the band also had Noah Hocker on the trumpet, Todd Londagin on trombone and tap dancer A.C. Lincoln.

The Sardines wasted no time getting straight to their music, saving any introductions until after their second piece. They began with a sultry, showy tune titled “I Love Paris” and followed immediately with a faster, peppier number called “Crazy Rhythm.” All of the Sardines’ music was either from or inspired by the popular styles of the first half of the last century. While all their music was of a similar vein, the night featured many unique pieces of various inspirations. Bougerol incorporated her French upbringing by updating many classic tunes into a jazzy French style. One of the most surprising was the band’s rendition of Louis Prima’s “I Wanna Be Like You” from Walt Disney’s 1967 animated film “The Jungle Book.” Bougerol said that the idea came to her from having to watch the Disney films in French as a child. In its new arrangement, the song took on more of a classy, nightclub vibe.

Other new arrangements featured by the Sardines were their covers of “Dinah” and “Why Don’t You Do Right.” Bougerol described their version of “Dinah” as a “jazz classic arranged in a New Orleans style with a Hollywood tune stuffed in.” The Hollywood tune mentioned was the song “Good Morning,” originally featured in 1939’s “Babes in Arms” and popularized in the 1952 film “Singin’ in the Rain.” The song held special significance for the band, as they were able to perform it for Debbie Reynolds, the star of “Singin’ in the Rain,” one year before her death. Their new version of “Why Don’t You Do Right,” which they renamed “The Girl with the Red Hair,” was just as interesting, with totally new lyrics sung in French. The song is now sung from the perspective of a woman going mad, pining for a lost love who ran off with another woman.

The Sardines played two songs which will be coming out later this year on their new album. The first was called “After You’ve Gone,” which Bougerol and Palazzo played in their very first set together. As Bougerol described it, the song “starts out in melancholy with a straight slide into rage.” The lyrics describe the feeling of being hurt by someone and the vengeful desire to see them feel the same pain. The other new song was their final number before the encore, “Caravan.” Written by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol, this piece had a mysterious, alluring feel to it, clearly influenced by music of the Middle East.

The rest of the performance included other toe-tapping jazz melodies like “Going Crazy with the Blues,” “Running Wild” from the 1959 comedy film “Some Like it Hot” (which, as suggested by the title, had a manic energy to it, moving at a furious pace from start to finish), “Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home,” “Comes Love” and “Lulu’s Back in Town.” The last two included lead vocals by Palazzo, with Palazzo featured on a terrific piano opening in “Comes Love.”

While this style of music no longer holds nearly the same interest amongst the college-age crowds than it once did, this was still a wonderful experience. Live jazz music is a unique cultural experience that more students should take advantage of. The energy is palpable and unlike anything felt in concerts for other musical genres. For anyone who missed the concert but is still interested in hearing more from this band, many of their songs are available on YouTube or iTunes, and they have a new album dropping soon. I would encourage students to seek this band out. They are definitely worth your time.


Evan Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at evan.burns@uconn.edu.