5

The Hot Sardines at Wildwood Park for the Arts

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
One of the best jazz bands in New York today. —Forbes Magazine
The Hot Sardines
Wildwood Park for the Arts
Little Rock, Arkansas
November 15, 2013

Is there a triple point where novelty, entertainment, and art meet? That was the question while watching New York City's period jazz band, the Hot Sardines, stroll through the '20s, '30s, and '40s like they knew Louis and Lil Hardin Armstrong personally. "One of the best jazz bands in New York..." Really? That statement needs qualification, and perhaps I am being too fussy and this fussiness clouds my daydream. The venue had much to do with my reverie. The Wildwood Park for the Arts is a superior performance space tucked out in the woods of what passes for "West Little Rock" ("West" being a relative term as "West Little Rock" has moved 15 miles since I was born in what is now "Midtown."

Some newfound friends sitting behind me were right, a club atmosphere with small tables surrounding the stage would have been more appropriate for the style of music we were treated to (and this would be true for most any flavor of jazz save for the Modern Jazz Quartet). But we were comfortable in the exceptional and intimate confines of a stage built as much for a choral performance as for the many operas I had seen performed there

The Hot Sardines are a bright and intelligent octet, capably led by vocalist/composer "Miz Elizabeth" Bourgerol, Parisian originally, late of Manhattan, and pianist and bandleader Evan "Bibs" Palazzo, whose Arkansas ties include parents who live in Little Rock and were in attendance. Bourgerol and Palazzo met at a jam session advertised on Craig's List and, in a room over a noodle shop on Manhattan's 49th Street, discovered their shared affinity for the dawn of jazz.

The band blurb states that the repertoire is made up of ..."songs no one really plays anymore...or if they play them, 'they handle with kid gloves, like pieces in a museum... This music isn't historical artifact. It is living, breathing, always-evolving music." That is a direct response to the past thirty years of Wynton Marsalis' enshrinement of the musics of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton, as well as Thelonious Monk, whose music falls beyond the present purview.

While Marsalis' attention has been both expert and educational, he has tended to "hug" the music too tightly, not allowing it to "breathe," as alluded to by Bourgerol and Palazzo. One approach is not any better than the other, and only advance in the same direction. So, strip away the novelty affectations and what one has is the honest depiction of jazz at its beginning, rendered with a vibrant clarity and charm that never, never bleeds into sentimentality or nostalgia. And, that is some trick.

The band blows through "Ain't Nobody's Business" (Porter Grainger, 1922), "Comes Love" (Sam H. Stept, with lyrics by Lew Brown and Charles Tobias, 1939), and "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" (Lil Hardin Armstrong and Louis Armstrong, 1927), expelling gin fumes and reefer like Leon Bismark Biederbeck got a snootful and decided to blow. The horn section is made up of the necessary trombone, trumpet and saxophone/clarinet. They play properly muted when necessary, as does Bourgerol, singing through the trombonist tenor mute on Shelton Brooks' 1910 composition, "Some of These Days," and mimicking what my grandparents would have heard through their American-Bosch console tube model.

Why is the Hot Sardines' music not simply novelty music played for an audience who would not know bebop from hard bop? Is cross-over phenom Robert Glasper correct in his contemporary criticism of jazz and his efforts to "stop jazz's slide into irrelevancy," odd as that is since his efforts are to re-warm 20 years of hip-hop/jazz intermingling. What the Hot Sardines bring to the table is sincerity and superior musicianship. Six-foot Bourgerol is a total musical package, visually and intellectually, and Palazzo commands a style of piano lost 80 years ago. They are serious about their music and aware that one must sell it to be successful... Rave on, Hot Sardines.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Newport Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Newport Jazz Festival 2017
by Timothy J. O'Keefe
Published: August 18, 2017
Read FORQ at The World Cafe Live Live Reviews FORQ at The World Cafe Live
by Mike Jacobs
Published: August 18, 2017
Read Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch at Korzo Live Reviews Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch at Korzo
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 18, 2017
Read Kongsberg Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Kongsberg Jazz Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Arturo Sandoval At Yoshi's Oakland Live Reviews Arturo Sandoval At Yoshi's Oakland
by Walter Atkins
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Jazz em Agosto 2017 Live Reviews Jazz em Agosto 2017
by Mike Chamberlain
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2016
by Mark Holston
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "Big Ears Festival 2017" Live Reviews Big Ears Festival 2017
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 5, 2017
Read "Tallinn Music Week 2017" Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.