NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER
Despite playing relatively older genres, like vintage pop and Dixieland jazz, The Hot Sardines first came to be in a very modern way: a Craigslist ad. Elizabeth Bougerol, a singer and co-leader of the band, and Evan Palazzo, a pianist and bandleader, both separately answered the call for jazz players, hit it off, and started playing.
But they didn’t have a name when signing up for their first performance. The group knew they wanted the word “hot” because their backbone was their love of hot jazz from the 1920s and ‘30s. Then, at the venue, Bougerol saw a tin of sardines packed in cayenne pepper with the label “Hot Sardines.”
“When I heard her suggest this,” Palazzo said, “I thought, ‘Hot Sardines, that’s perfect.’ ”
At 8:15 p.m. Friday, July 9 in the Amphitheater, Palazzo and the group will be playing songs off of their newest album, Welcome Home, Bon Voyage, plus an album they are currently working on, as well as many classics from vintage pop, swing and Dixieland jazz.
“This music was the Top 40 of the day, so it is kind of pop music — but then it has grown,” Palazzo said. “The songs are so strong and so enduring that it really spread.”
He said that tonight’s set list is a nod to Django Reinhardt. The band, which includes a tap dancer and a three-piece horn section, will also play “Won’t You Please Come Home,” by Bill Bailey.
Part of the reason Palazzo loves what he does, he said, is because the language of music is very precise. The slightest pitch change in singing a word like “love” drastically changes the meaning.
“Humans are totally sensitive to that, so it really gives us an emotional experience that is hard to get from language,” Palazzo said. “It can be done in great works of literature and plays and poetry, but I think (music) really is a shot in the arm of that kind of emotional experience, the panoply of emotions — and we try to cover them all.”
And it is no easy task to cover these emotions and effectively collaborate as musicians.
“At the heart of what we do is a collaboration,” Palazzo said. “(We’re) more than a team — because a collaboration means you have to be adding, not just fulfilling, to make the music as good as it can be.”
The Hot Sardines have played with numerous guest musicians, and Palazzo said the group is lucky to work with great players who know how to be flexible. He said for the genre of jazz they play, they do not have musical notes in front of them, and the arrangements are mostly memorized.
“It’s a joyful one when it goes well — and when it doesn’t go well, that’s cool,” Palazzo said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh what a horrible disappointment,’ because it doesn’t always go well, even with great people … so you have to be patient and flexible.”