The Hot Sardines Add a 21st-Century Spin to Early Jazz Music in Houston Concert

Expect a varied set list at the Hot Sardines' Holiday Stomp show, singer/founder Miz Elizabeth tells us. “It's a departure from what we do usually, in terms of the holiday theme, but it's still fused to our obsession with popular music from the first half of the last century.

"We love so many of the genres from lots of jazz, Broadway and some with ties to the classic Hollywood era. There's a little bit of everything.” She says the group will perform Dixieland Christmas tunes, a nod to Mary Poppins and a song that was recorded by Edith Piaf. “And, of course, we cover the most covered song of all time, Irvin Berlin's “White Christmas.”

She describes the music as "very danceable," hence the show's title. 

Miz Elizabeth met pianist Evan "Bibs" Palazzo in 2007. There was an immediate musical connection and over the next few years, the Hot Sardines came together with a strong focus on early jazz. Their chosen genre isn't the most popular in America, but it's the one the Sardines most enjoy.

“In the U.S., it's a little bit on the fringe. It's not popular music in this day and age; it's not in the pop spectrum. Our approach to this music, first and foremost, is that when this music was first being played, it was pop music. It was what everyone was listening to.

“It's easy to re-historicize things, but really, this is just pop music. At its origins, jazz is pop music. A hundred years from now, someone might think of Deborah Harry and Justin Bieber as being from the same era,” she tells us, “but actually there was lots and lots of time between them. A lot of differences, too.”

The group, now in its eighth year, is in the midst of its first national tour. “We did shows outside of New York, of course, but that wasn't our focus. We wanted to establish ourselves, to developing a following in New York City. Thankfully, people have really responded to what we're doing."

While the music the Hot Sardines perform might tend to be 100 years old, their audience is definitely not. "We see people from 18 to 80 in our shows in New York, and we've seen that same demographic reflected on the road. Just the other night we had a family with three generations, the grandmother, the mother and the daughter. This music really does cross demographic lines. That's one of the reasons, I think, these songs have endured so long.”

The France-born Miz Elizabeth is careful to say that while the group embraces music from the early 20th century, they are artists performing in the 21st century.

“You might hear a Prince or a James Brown lick when we're onstage; we can't help it. We love the music from the [early 20th century], but we've listened to all sorts of music that was made since then. We're not trying to re-create music from 1925 or anything. We're taking a 1925 song and singing it in 2015. Some of that sneaks in from time to time.”

8 p.m. December 10. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit $33 to $63. 
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Olivia Flores Alvarez