Putting on a great live event is all about coordination and synergy. In every aspect the devil is most certainly in the details, so when it comes to hiring the right live event entertainment you don’t want to over generalize. Jazz is a genre that weaves through more than one half century of popular music, so it’s vital to zero-in on the particular type and flavor of jazz that best suits your event’s overall theme and setting. In this article we wanted to provide our event planner friends with some key considerations when hiring jazz artists for events.
1) Style / Era
The following are some of the key movements in jazz (in chronological order): ragtime, blues, new orleans, dixieland, swing, bebop, afro-cuban, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz and free jazz. Each of these styles has it’s own unique mood, characteristics and flavor. For instance, if you are planning a 1920’s (flapper) themed event, then it would be most appropriate to focus on performers that specialize in new orleans or dixieland. Whereas, if you are trying to evoke the spirit of the 1930’s-40’s, artists who specialize in swing styles would be better suited. Swing era jazz artists, as a general rule, are the best choice for classic and traditional events, as the swing era is responsible for some of the most popular, recognizable and danceable jazz standards ever written.
The primary forms of jazz instrumentation range from soloists and duo’s, to small ensembles and big bands. The limits of the venue, and the planned role of the entertainment (i.e. headline or background), will in most cases dictate the required instrumentation. For instance, in a small venue, or an event where only background music is needed, anything other than a soloist, duo or trio, would likely be overkill. One key thing to note is that even while certain types of jazz (i.e. big band, afro-cuban, etc) are associated with larger groups, it doesn’t preclude you from booking a soloist, duo or trio that plays popular hits from that style and era. This is key because, while the size of the venue may limit the instrumentation, it doesn’t limit your ability to find entertainment that is thematically relevant.
The two most popular jazz formats are; vocal and instrumental. For smaller instrumental groups, one instrument will typically assume the lead voice. For instance, when it comes to trio’s, the most common lead instruments are piano, organ and guitar. So while a trio led by piano may play the same songs as a trio led by guitar or organ, there will be a different overall tone to the sound. Small format instrumental jazz typically does not require a house sound system, while larger ensembles and vocal jazz units do.