Swinging Jazz; Live Music for Events
A group of composers were sitting around planning a tribute to one of their peers.
“Call Judy Chamberlain,” someone said. “She’s the only one who sings the songs right.”
Words…and music, the way the composers wrote them. Swinging jazz.
These things do not often go hand in hand.
But they should.
Miles Davis could not have recorded his groundbraking albums in the 1960’s if he hadn’t known where the music came from and who wrote it and why.
Louis Armstrong was a master of authenticity. So were Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerals, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Fred Astaire.
Many were dancers, and could sing tricky phrases filled with emotion while never missing even the hair of the a click of a beat within the meter. They were vitrual “time” machines.
It’s called “swinging.”
Real bands play music you can dance to. That doesn’t mean cardboard-rigid phrasing, which is what we hear with a lot of today’s big bands. Oh, the bands are playing nicely enough. But they are READING from a book on a music stand in front of them! Count Basie and Duke Ellington they ain’t. Most of them just don’t swing.
Authenticity. Staying true to the words and melody that the composers wrote. Swinging like mad, making everything danceable. Meter, time “feel,” correctness.
It cannot be faked.
Swinging is an art.
Singing while the band is swinging is an art.
Sinatra did it. Ella Fitzgerald did it. Billie Holiday, even when stoned out of her mind, did it. Ellington, Basie, Bing Crosby — these people all swung like mad.
It’s what you hire a live band for, especially a live band playing music for people who are dancing…or really listening to the music. To have anything less is inconceivable. But that is what you might very well get with some of the ridiculously overpriced “live bands” that are out there in the marketplace. Why? Because they don’t know the history of the music, or of the composer – or even the right words to the song. Maybe they’ve never played — or even heard — that song before and are reading it from a book.
No wonder so many people throw in the towel and hire a DJ. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I suspect some of the latest crop of “event bands” are overpriced because they have to work so hard learning music they are not accustomed to playing. Sort of like if one of our great jazz or swing bands suddenly announced that it had become a Top Forty band.
Louis Armstrong would roll over in his grave!
Around here, we don’t need no stinking rehearsals! We’ve been playing this music all of our lives, and we play it right! We respect and revere what the composer wrote. We pay homage to the words, to the melody. We don’t take liberties with something that’s already perfect. It’s not cool to “re-harmonize” Cole Porter.
We do fool around with tempos — because we CAN. We turn hip hop songs into standards, and add lots of funk, soul and groove to standards to keep things fresh and interesting. Other than that, you’re going to hear music they way you think you should be hearing it. Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby — they were dancers, veritable “time” machines.
That’s what we do.
Don’t try it at home, and don’t expect to get it with a group of “jazzers” you pull out of a bar.
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.
It helps when musicians know where the music came from, who wrote it and why.
Singer/bandleader Judy Chamberlain specializes in live music for celebrity weddings in California, Arizona, Texas and beyond. She can be reached at 714 319-9242