After many years of organizing jazz bands for all types of events, I am struck by the similarity of how most of our clients apply.
It says something like this: “We are looking for a jazz band to play at our wedding / book launch / family fun day / sixtieth birthday / store opening, etc.” … “Oh yeah, we say, what style of jazz band?” … “Er, I’m not really sure. What styles do you have?”
It was because of this exchange that I felt this article would be helpful in choosing the right type of jazz band for your party, celebration, or event.
Rather than going over the history of jazz development from the purists’ point of view, it would be easier to list a number of event types and match them to jazz band styles with a brief description of the jazz band that more likely to suit the occasion. . Let’s start with the wedding.
You are more likely to want a jazz band at your wedding at two points in the day’s proceedings.
The reception. You and your partner have just left the church and your guests are almost back in the place they chose for the celebrations. What better way than to get acquainted with a jazz band.
As champagne and Pimms are handed out, the band just adds a perfect, happy backdrop to the moment. There are two main types of jazz bands that can adapt to the moment:
A Dixieland band or a swing band.
Dixieland Jazz. This is jazz from the early twenties. Musicians will happily dress up in striped jackets or vests and play charming old fun tunes from that era, such as “When the Saints Come Marching In”, “The Charleston”, “Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home” and ” Five Foot Two Eyes of Blue “. The instrumentation is usually banjo, sousaphone (a tuba that you can use) and one or two top-of-the-line instruments such as trumpet, sax or trombone. The band is mobile and acoustic and can move around the site entertaining guests in different locations. Artists associated with the genre include Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and Fats Waller.
Jazz swing. The names of the musicians associated with this style of jazz band are Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. The music is mainly from the late thirties and early forties and is very melodic. Ella Fitzgerald began her career at this time in Harlem and had great success with the band Chick Webb. The jazz band will likely play many tunes from Broadway shows of the time, such as “Funny Valentine”, “It Had To Be You”, “Making Whoopee”, “It Don`t Mean a Thing If It Ain`t Got That Swing “. This jazz band may be acoustic but it will likely include an electric piano, which the musicians will provide along with a speaker. They will need a power supply and the logistics of this must be taken into account when choosing the jazz band. Are your guests near a power source, is the reception indoors or outdoors, how is the weather
look of foresight? Finally, how big should the jazz band be? For both styles, a trio or quartet will be fine.
After the wedding breakfast. Your guests have sat down to a gigantic meal, great wines, and various speeches, including a slightly embarrassing one from the best man! They are ready to stretch their legs, use the toilets, smoke a cigarette, and keep chatting with old friends they may not have seen in a long time. They are not ready to dance yet. Your jazz band must know this and must play suitable accessible tunes in a discreet manner. You don’t want a modern jazz band right now. Known variously as Be-Bop, Modern Jazz, West Coast and performed by artists such as John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, it is music for concert halls or jazz clubs. You want sophisticated and smoky melodies, maybe with some vocals like “Let there be love”, “The Girl From Ipanema”, “My Baby Just Cares For Me”. Artists associated with this type of jazz include Stan Getz, Billie Holiday, and Nat King Cole. You might also think of some Rat Pack tunes that were performed by artists like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Music for dance. If you are determined to have a jazz band for dancing, ask your jazz band how many styles of jazz and swing they can play. A jazz band that plays tune after tune swing all night is going to lose your guests’ attention. Variety is the key. I would suggest a mix of Latin, Jump Jive, swing, old-fashioned Rhythm and Blues, and even Funky jazz that borders on Soul. Not many jazz bands can handle this variety. Ask at the time of booking what the jazz band proposes to play at this time. Do they have a suitable vocalist / vocalists? Can you play segue (song after song) to keep guests on the ground?
My opinion based on many years playing for this type of game is the following. As much as you love jazz, swing, call it what you want, at some point in the process someone will want to dance some classic soul or rock and roll. It is inevitable, it always happens. I see it week after week, year after year. When I have been hired as a trombonist to play in another band of conductors on such an occasion, I am saddened that the conductor did not foresee such an eventuality. It results in unhappy customers and frustrated revelers. Take note if you want a complete dance floor!
Next we come to corporate reception. This manifests itself in many ways. It could be a jazz band for a book launch, a jazz band for an appreciation party with drinks, a jazz band for a reception before going to dinner. Last year, an insurance company asked me for a series of jazz bands that they could play to give the bonuses to their employers. We have never seen such happy parties and not a drop of alcohol in the place!
Think about what is required of the jazz band in question. The band is asked to reflect something of the company, a sense of fun or sophistication for the event. The focus should be on how you want the band to dress. Tuxedo? Lounge suits? Are your guests networking or grateful for your year’s business? Most bands that are asked to do this type of work must be impeccably dressed and have a sense of occasion. They should appreciate that guests are there not just to listen to them, but for all kinds of
other reasons. A low-key Dinner Jazz band sets the tone for this kind of engagement. High enough to create a mood, but not to drown out what are perhaps very important and lucrative conversations. The music style will be Bossa Nova, light swing and Lounge. In my experience, a quartet or quintet is a perfectly sized band. Voices are unnecessary and can distract your guests.
Store openings. Every year we open or reopen several supermarkets, computer stores, video and DVD stores throughout the country. The jazz band has always been a visual and audible part of the promotion. The jazz band in question tends to be a Dixieland trio or quartet. They are perfect being, as we read above, acoustic and mobile. The music is upbeat and uplifting and with a sense of fun. The jazz band dons striped outfits, which help set the mood for the day.
Corporate entertainment. This is a broad term and covers anything from Henley, Ascot, auto racing days, as well as themed events in spectacular settings. The Dixieland band is perfect for the almost vintage Henley feel and the swing band works just as effectively. Think “Dixieland jazz band” for a happy, lively, and fun image. “Swing jazz band for a more sophisticated, laid-back, laid-back vibe. Do you want your guests to dance? This can be pretty weird. Decision-makers tend not to break out into a frenzied bop in the middle of the afternoon! family members have done it.This is quite common, a Latin jazz band can be very effective in this situation and it is hard to ignore contagious rhythms.
A note of caution. Is your event for several dignitaries and celebrities? If so, they won’t want to be photographed by the jazz band or even talk to the jazz band. You need a band with a certain discretion or, dare I say, a certain indifferent approach to the world of celebrities. As a musician, I meet stars of the theater and screen, royalty, politicians, public figures, and minor soap opera stars every month and I think it is appreciated when they are given a certain amount of space and not looked at with the eyes. . Use a jazz band that is used to playing for such audiences. They should be outgoing, eloquent, elegantly groomed, and not scared when a familiar face approaches them!
Time for a summary:
1. Choose the jazz band from the perspective of what is required of them. Do you want background music or do you want to dance?
2. How many guests do you have? Is the band the correct size? Are you dressed correctly?
3. Is the band outside? Do you have access to power? Can they play acoustically if necessary?
4. What melodies can they play? Ask them for a directory listing, do you recognize the. Titles?
5. Are they professionals? This may seem obvious, but there are many musicians who have retired from work full time or are between jobs and are turning their hobby into a source of income. How long have you been working as professionals? Who have they played with in the past? What experience do they have in performing for the type of event you are having?
6. Order a sample cd. How is your advertising? You need to be sure that you are getting reliable professional gear that will show up with plenty of time, look good, be fully cooperative with your needs, and play the right music. The right jazz band can make your party, the wrong one can spoil it to a greater or lesser extent.
7. Are they flexible? You don’t want to find out in the middle of a dance that the band you have hired can only play one style of jazz. Ask them when you are considering reserving them. Can you play some Classic Soul? Can you play some Latin tunes? Don’t be fooled by “We do a little of everything.” Ask them for a repertoire list.
8. Talk about a jockey with the band. Are you providing refreshments for the jazz band? Although refreshments are not expected, they are greatly appreciated, especially if the band is on site for a while without access to food and drink. If it doesn’t suit you, don’t worry. If the jazz band knows beforehand, they can make their own arrangements.
9. Have you told the band what kind of music you want to hear? Don’t worry if you don’t have a jazz background. Tell the jazz band leader or agent the tunes you like and the artists you like. This will give the leader / agent an excellent idea of which bands to recommend. Search your cd collection for ideas; ask your friends and family for suggestions. When the jazz band appears, you will be properly informed and will be able to give the performance you wanted.