Jazz Bands &
The Different Types of Jazz explained.
What Do I Want?
How Do I Choose?
Here at The Edge receive several enquiries daily for details
of Jazz Bands & responding appropriately is always difficult as there are so
many different types of Jazz & so many different kinds of Jazz Bands & each client has a different idea of what they are
looking for in a such a band.
It is always useful to know what kind of environment and
event the band will be required to play for – for instance as background music
at a reception, or at an open air event, for dancing, in concert or as cabaret.
A good way to generally define the types of Jazz Band
which are available is to think historically and consider the styles of the eras
of Jazz and also some of the other styles which overlap Jazz.
Dixieland, New Orleans, Traditional Jazz
This style was firmly established in the 1920’s and the
bands are usually from three to six or eight pieces. A three piece band of this
era is often made up of Sousaphone (the large tuba like instrument which wraps
around the body and with a large skywards facing bell), Banjo and a melody
instrument (Trumpet, Clarinet, Sax or Trombone). This kind of band is mobile
and adds a ‘Mardi Gras’ flavour to any event. A full traditional jazz band is
typically made up of Piano(or Guitar/Banjo), Bass, Drums, Trumpet, Clarinet and Trombone.
Probably the definitive band of this era was that of Louis Armstrong while
contemporary example of the style in the UK are the bands of Kenny Ball, Acker
Bilk, Terry Lightfoot, George Melly with the Feetwarmers and Humphrey
Littleton. One of our busiest bands performing Dixieland Jazz is
The Cambridge Jazz Band.
Hot Club Jazz Bands
Moving on slightly, another popular style of jazz from the
20’s and 30’s is that made popular by Django Reinhardt, whose group consisted of
Violin, one or two Guitars and sometimes Double Bass. In the thirties this
style became popular in France at the Hot Club in Paris. Many people are
familiar with the work of Stephane Grappelli, the music violinist who was popular
on record and TV almost up to his death during the nineties. This particularly
joyous, listenable and entertaining jazz form is highly suitable for receptions
and there are duo, trios and quartets performing this style in the UK. It does
still offer a French flavour. A definitive example of this jazz form is
Grappelli’s recording of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’. One particularly fine exponent
of this style in the UK is the Hot Club Trio.
‘Savoy’ Jazz, Period Jazz
To the purist much of this is not really jazz at all but a
commercial form of dance music from the 1930’s. However, it is highly
entertaining and reminiscent of a bygone age and very suitable for theming an
event in that decade. Good examples of bands currently playing this style in
the UK are, among others, The Piccadilly Dance Orchestra, The Pasadena Roof
Orchestra and The Cotton Club Orchestra. Theses bands often include repertoire
from jazz icons rooted in that era such as Duke Ellington.
Big Band, Swing
Usually played by a band consisting of four Trumpets, four
Trombones, five Saxophones and a rhythm section of Piano, Bass, Drums and
Guitar, the music emerged in the 30’s and flourished into the 40’s. Many people
think of the music of Glenn Miller as being typical of this style but other
bands, at least as significant, were, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke
Ellington, Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey (with whom Frank Sinatra established his
career). This form of jazz is arguably the most popular and enduring of all.
Dances such as the jitterbug and jive grew around this music. The repertoire is
largely made up of the ‘American Standard Songbook’ (Songs by Gershwin, Cole
Porter, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hart etc.) together with the instrumental
classics associated with the bands mentioned above. There are many bands of
this king in the UK of world class standard which include the BBC Big Band, The
Syd Lawrence Orchestra, The Don Lusher Big Band and
78rpm. In addition there are many bands recreating the music of Glenn
Miller and others and some bands with special arrangements from around 10 pieces
playing in ‘big’ band style.
Mainstream Jazz Bands
This term applies to jazz which started in the 1940’s and
probably resulted from the demise of the huge number of big bands which had
existed up to then. The style is largely swing in the style of a 1930’s-40’s
big band but by a smaller group. The Rosie Val Swingtet specialises in this kind of jazz.
Jump Jive, Swing Bands
This is really a crossover style of jazz of the big band
era and rhythm and blues. Its influence can be heard in Rock ‘n’ Roll. It is
typically ‘hot and swinging’ with a driving back beat. The bands are from five
to nine pieces and include horns in the line up. Much of the repertoire
currently played is from bands of the late forties and early fifties especially
Louis Jordan (the musical ‘Five Guys Named Mo’ consists of entirely of Jordan’s
songs) and Louis Prima. There has been a huge revival in this kind of music
over the past few years because of it’s ‘good time’ shuffling beat and its very
danceable style. Leading exponents of this style in the UK include Ray Gelato’s
Giants of Jive, Blue Harlem and the Phenomenal Pound Puppies. Much material
recorded by artists such as Van Morrison and Georgie Fame could be considered as
representing this kind of jazz.
Modern Jazz, Cool Jazz, Dinner Jazz &
In the context of planning an event, this category is very
broad and encompasses music from the forties, fifties and sixties and even later
and in invariably played by smaller groups from a duo up to around six pieces.
The material can include ‘American Standards’ in a smooth swing style along with
Latin American influences such as Bossa Nova and Samba. The music is often used
as reception music or as a background to dining. Cool, Sophisticated jazz is
always popular and there are a great number of bands available offering
different variation of line up and repertoire and which can include in any
combination trumpet, Saxophone, Flute, Piano, bass, Drums, Guitar and Vocalist.
Many of these bands also play covers of other styles and offer classic pop dance
Fusion Jazz Styles
Jazz. Along with Rhythm and Blues has transferred its
influences to many other music types including Pop and Rock. There is a whole
generation of popular and entertaining jazz in a funky tight and danceable style
from the past thirty years and the boundaries become hazy so that a band who
describe themselves as a Soul or R & B band may be described by some as a jazz
band. Other ‘crossover’ fusion styles include Latin Jazz or Salsa, Indo Jazz
and Afro Jazz ( good styles to consider at a multicultural event).
All of this is intended to help clients define what they
are looking for in a ‘jazz band’ as part of the entertainment at an event or
function and is by no means an authoritative potted history of jazz.
When enquiring about booking a jazz band it is useful to mention some songs
& repertoire the
artists whose material you expect to be covered when requesting details of band
from your Entertainment Consultant or Agent.
The Edge Entertainment
Agency are able to assist with all kinds of Jazz Band in the UK, covering events
including corporate parties, private celebrations and weddings across London and
the whole of the UK.