Swinging Live Music for Parties & Events
What makes live music more than just a band showing up and playing some tunes?
One of the key elements of live music — as opposed to bands that play to “tracks” and DJ’s pushing buttons — is an undertanding of the words and melody that the composers wrote.
It’s one thing to memorize a song –and far yet another thing to understand the “shape” of the music and how it should be expressed.
With a great band — and not one that is reading from some BOOKS onstage — the music is going to swing like mad, making everything that is played REALLY danceable. But “meter” and “time feel” are words many bands today have never even heard about.
Melody. Words. Vintage Jazz and Swing. Live Event Music. Dance Music.
These words don’t always go together. Which is why people sometimes think they have to hire a DJ to get a party happening on the dance floor. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And there is nothing –absolutely NOTHING — that’s as much fun as having a professional, experienced, musical, talented, GREAT live band entertain at your wedding or event.
Music you can DANCE to 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 Count Basie and Duke Ellington they ain’t. Most of them just don’t swing.
Swinging is an art.
Singing with meaningful, engaging phrasing while the band is swinging is also 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 dancers at a wedding or other important event. To have anything less is inconceivable. But that is what you often get, even with — especially with — some of the VERY high-priced “wedding band options” 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 or melody to the song. Maybe they’ve never even played it before and are reading it from a book.
Perhaps they are actors trying to play the part of musicians and singers, and simply do not know the music well enough to interpret it with style and meaning.
But it is so important to respect and revere what the composer wrote. To accurately present 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.
A great band may sometimes fool around with tempos. Bands of yesteryear used to do that al the time. It’s why a lot of this music is called “standards.” Anyone can play standards, interpreting styles and tempos to make the songs unique and interesting.
A great band will also be able to set perfect tempos for dancing!
Not everyone can do that these days, so don’t settle for a group of “jazzers” playing for themselves…or reading from “fake books.”
Louis Armstrong would roll over in his grave!
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