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The Hot Sardines: Welcome Home, Bon Voyage

John Bricker By

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The Hot Sardines' impressive musicianship and infectious energy make it hard to accept that early 1900s swing and proto-jazz ever went out of style. The New York-based eight-piece band gives a perfect example of how they revitalize classics on Welcome Home, Bon Voyage, a collection of live recordings from sets at Joe's Pub in New York City and at Toronto's Koerner Hall, showcasing their most versatile performances yet.

The band cites influences like Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt and Fats Waller on their Bandcamp page and, with their first album, Shanghai'd (2011, Self Released), they faithfully recreated those sounds, muffling energetic performances with the dusty finish of an ancient phonograph. Now, The Hot Sardines represent an idealized evolution of early-jazz, elevating familiar standards with crisp recordings and dramatic arrangements. On Welcome Home, Bon Voyage, they deliver more than just simple ragtime, creating some of their most subtle and lovely songs.

The relaxed instrumental on "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" serves as a perfect foundation for Miz Elizabeth Bougerol's vocals, which she peppers with idiosyncratic tones and touches of vibrato. The song remains simple, featuring only one solo while most of the tracks include two or three, and its simplicity allows Bougerol's masterful vocals to remain the centerpiece. Not all of The Hot Sardines' quieter tracks focus on only one member of the band. In their live rendition of Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol's "Caravan," the band switches between ominous grooves, propulsive swing sections and an electrifying trade-off between conga drums and A.C. Lincoln's tap dancing. The track's midsection features multiple solos, from Nick Myers' airy clarinet, to Noah Hocker's strained trumpet and bandleader Evan Palazzo's rhythmic, driving piano. Despite the track's fantastic performances, none of them distract from the overall composition, creating a dynamic and unique take on the original tune's exotic atmosphere.

Although the band effortlessly delivers subtle compositions, The Hot Sardines still deliver plenty of powerful, joyful swing. "Crazy Rhythm" immediately captivates with its speedy horn stabs and drums, paired with a buttery smooth verse from Bougerol. The band keeps the track consistently danceable with a consistent beat from the drums and bass while switching up the instrumentation to showcase standout solos from Myers' tenor saxophone, Hocker's trumpet and Palazzo's piano. "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey" begins with another infectious groove, building onto simple bass, drums and piano with horns and Bougerol's most eccentric vocals yet. The band cycles through the album's most beautiful, aggressive and rhythmic solos. After one final swell of chaotic horns, the band slides into a bustling, New Orleans groove as the track fades away.

Welcome Home, Bon Voyage is a fantastic demonstration of The Hot Sardines' passion and vitality, and proves that swing belongs to the present just as much as the past.

Track Listing: Everybody Loves My Baby; Some of These Days; Crazy Rhythm; Baby Won’t You Please Come Home; Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now; Jelly Roll; Exactly Like You; Lulu’s Back In Town; After You’ve Gone; Caravan; (Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey; Bill Bailey Reprise.

Personnel: Miz Elizabeth Bougerol: vocals and washboard; Evan Palazzo: piano and vocals; Noah Hocker: trumpet; J. Walter Hawkes: trombone; A.C. Lincoln: tap; Nick Myers: tenor saxophone, clarinet and congas; Jason Mercer: bass; David Berger: drums, congas and percussion.

Title: Welcome Home, Bon Voyage | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Eleven Records

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