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Guide to Choosing a Band: Elements to Consider When Booking Jazz for an Event

Guide to Choosing a Band: Elements to Consider When Booking Jazz for an Event

Courtesy Shawn Aileen


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Cocktail hour, holiday parties, Board dinners, benefit fundraisers, private parties, or weddings: our live musicians playing America's greatest art form add that special, elegant touch to your event.
The most important element of jazz is the warm, natural sound of the acoustic instruments that comprise the ensemble.

Most groups consist of either piano or guitar complemented by bass and drums (with additional horns or vocalists added when desired). The repertoire is wide-ranging and the musical language common to all Just Jazz musicians. No matter the size or make up of the group, the long heritage of our jazz vocabulary creates an elegant, smooth sound that enhances the ambience of the room.

There are many factors to consider when selecting the band to perform at your event, and because every affair is different, the requirements for each ensemble vary. Based on many years of experience, we present the following information as a guide in helping you decide what type of band will best complement your event. Just follow the step-by-step guide to help you put together the most appropriate configuration of musicians for your function.

What kind of event are you planning?

  • corporate function
  • formal dinner or cocktail party
  • wedding reception
  • benefit/fund raiser
  • informal private party
  • concert
The type of event will dictate the size and style of the band. For instance, the more formal the event, the more likely that the music will act solely as a background setting. For private parties and weddings, the music takes a more central role in the success of the event.

What Role Do You Want The Music To Play?

Acoustic jazz brings many refined elements to an event depending on how it is used. Here are three ways to think about how to integrate jazz into an event:

Background Music

A formal dinner or cocktail party might require an elegant atmosphere that only live jazz music can provide. The music needs to be felt more than listened to so as not to obstruct conversation. Solo piano or guitar may work, but if the event is larger, only the core trio (guitar/piano, bass & drums) provides the cohesive sound that is distinctive to jazz.

(Note: since the piano and guitar function similarly in any group, in general it is best to use the natural sound of a guitar when there is no acoustic piano at the event site).

Background and Listening Music

Sometimes jazz music can enliven an event with needed pizzazz. For example, a private party might require the music to be more festive, rather than solely background. Here the addition of drums is particularly effective in creating an energy that can get toes tapping. Another event, though, might need the music to be more flexible, first acting as background and then taking on a more central role as the evening progresses. In this instance, the versatile sound of an added saxophone allows the music to better make the transition from the background to the main element of the party.

Listening Music

This role means that the music is the event. The band is hired to play a concert or festival where the music is showcased in a theater, club, or private venue.

What are the logistics of the event?

Number of attendees

A small event of under 30 people implies an intimate setting and would likely require a smaller band, such as solo piano or guitar, duos and sometimes trios. This intimate setting can be sustained for larger groups, but in general, the larger the event, the more musicians that are required to sustain a lively atmosphere.

Size of the room

The size and layout of the room affects the acoustics. Spaces specifically designed for parties and receptions (most dining rooms, hotel spaces, and event halls) usually have the best acoustics and can accommodate most types of ensembles. If your event is taking place in an unusual space or surroundings, the sound may be affected and will have to be tailored accordingly. Also, outdoor events pose special problems such as access to electrical outlets and weather considerations. In general, bigger groups are needed for outdoor events, since the sound of the group needs to be larger in order to project effectively.

Multiple rooms involved

Many times two or three groups are requested for one event with each band playing in separate rooms simultaneously. On other occasions, one band might provide the music for the entire function but has to move from one room to another in the middle of the event. For instance, the cocktail hour might take place in one space while the dinner is held in an adjoining ballroom.

Timing & pacing of the event

What time of the day or evening does it start and finish? Is the music needed in the beginning or will it be added in the middle? Are there speeches or announcements? Is there a ceremony? Is there a slide show? When are cocktails over? When is dinner served?

The answers to these questions will determine the flow of the music for the evening and breaks can be scheduled accordingly.

Attire of the musicians

The style of the function will determine what you want the musicians to wear. The most formal event might require a tuxedo, followed by business suit and tie. Less formal attire would include a jacket with or without tie, and the most casual combination would only require a dress shirt and pants. Female musicians dress accordingly.

What is your budget?

The price of the band is principally derived from the following two factors:
  • Number of musicians in the ensemble.
  • Total performance hours required.
A rule of thumb is that the larger the ensemble and the longer the music plays, the greater the cost. The makeup of the band depends on many of the issues covered above, and the duration of the music is entirely up to you.

Other factors that may affect the cost of the music

  • Location of the event: out-of-town events incur travel costs and lodging (if overnight stay is needed).
  • Day of the week: weekends and special holidays (i.e. New Year's Eve) are charged at higher rates. All other times are typically billed at regular rates.
  • Continuous music: while the standard practice is for the band to take regular intermissions, sometimes music is required to be played throughout the event with no breaks. In this case, there is an extra charge to compensate the musicians. 
  • Overtime: music that is provided after the stipulated ending time in the contract is charged as overtime, usually in half-hour increments. 
  • Extra equipment: Just Jazz musicians bring their instruments to the gig and provide all needed amplification and electrical connections. Additional equipment not usually included may incur additional fees (public address systems, taped music to be played on breaks, lighting, etc.) .
We pride ourselves in our ability to assemble the most suitable ensemble for your function. Because we have put together jazz bands for hundreds and hundreds of events, we are confident that we can answer any question you might have concerning the size, sound, and appearance of the group.

About Just Jazz

Established in 1996, Just Jazz have been providing live jazz groups for events all over the country for over two decades.

Our musicians have received formal music training from conservatories such as the Berklee College of Music (Boston) and The Julliard School (New York City), and many now teach at music schools and universities.  The list of jazz legends with which our musicians have performed is extensive and includes: Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, Ray Charles, Grover Washington, Jr., and Pat Metheny, among many, many others.

We provide combinations of musicians to match the acoustics of the room, the number of guests attending the event, and the mood of the evening. 

Cocktail hour, holiday parties, Board dinners, benefit fundraisers, private parties, or weddings: our live musicians playing America's greatest art form add that special, elegant touch to your event.

Just Jazz is managed by drummer and composer, Vinson Valega.


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