THE HOT SARDINES | London, Roundhouse

The roaring twenties are on the cusp of a centenary resurgence and championing the cause of the prohibition era’s soundtrack are The Hot Sardines – a seven-piece dixieland trad. band hotter than a bootleg liquor.  Elizabeth Bougerol leads on vocals, but it’s pianist Evan Palazzo who commands the band and transformed the Roundhouse into a night hot den of illicit swing.  And boy, do they swing.

Trad classics such as Everybody Loves My Baby and Fats Waller’s Your Feets Too Big romped along, whilst Why Don’t You Do Right received a Parisian make over reclassifying it as a smoke shuffle fuelled by lyrics of unrequited love that crescendo into a bluesy stomp.  Even I Wanna Be Like You got the francophilic touch, including the Jungle Book’s simian backing vocals being squeezed through the translation mangle.  When the repertoire is a century old its these creative incarnations that give the Sardines the edge, and it is Palazzo’s bouncing stride piano that keeps them rooted in authenticity, even when the brisk tempo of Runnin’ Wild threatened to fulfil its title.

Three horns is variety enough: wailing clarinet gives way to rasping trombone, in turn complimenting a screaming trumpet (three adjectives almost uniquely complimentary in a trad jazz setting).  It’s an extravagant luxury, therefore, to add a tap dancer.  Yes, a tap dancer; comfortably poised centre stage turning in admiring appreciation to each soloist, before leaping to his feet (feat?) for his own shoe-shuffling, clog-clanking, heel-hopping frenzy.  It’s a spectacle few other jazz bands can boast and it worked absolutely perfectly.

Intimate performances as part of the ‘In the Round’ programme continue.


Photographs by John Williams

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