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The Hot Sardines at Central Park Summerstage

Ernest Barteldes By

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The Hot Sardines
Central Park Summerstage
New York, NY
June 25, 2016

On their Central Park Summerstage debut, the New York-based band led by Miz Elizabeth Bougerol (vocals, washboard) and Evan Palazzo (piano, musical direction) kicked off their set with a selection of New Orleans-inspired adaptations of either jazz or show tunes, including a tango rendition of a number from the musical "Oklahoma!"

One of the first thing that calls attention to the band on a live setting is the presence of tap dancer Edwin Francisco, who enhances the music with his improvised footwork. Bougerol also has great presence as a front woman, even though she doesn't seem to do much vocal improvisation, allowing the instrumentalists to take over during the extended solo sections instead. The band was augmented by a string quartet for this show, which complemented their regular horn section formed by Jason Prover (trumpet), Nick Myers (clarinet, saxophone) and Mike Sailors (cornet, trombone).

Early into the set Bougerol acknowledged the importance of events like Summerstage that give opportunity for musicians to showcase their art -"Not many cities around to this for music," and launched into "Wake Up In Paris," a track from their self-titled album (Decca, 2014) a minor hit for them that was distributed as a free download by Starbucks in 2015. It is a mellow tune that gives much opportunity to be creative around it.

Other highlights included an up-tempo rendition of "Running Wild," a tune arguably best known for its Marilyn Monroe version from the 1959 movie Some Like It Hot that served to introduce all the members of the band, which is rounded out by Evan Crane (upright bass, sousaphone) and Alex Raderman (percussion) and also the ragtime-inspired title tune from French Fries and Champagne (Decca, 2016). The ensemble is formed by very talented musicians with great chemistry, and that is evident in a live format. The set was enjoyable even for someone not familiar with them—they were quite captivating, leaving the audience with the desire to hear more of them.

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