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What is a jazz band?

A jazz band (also known as a jazz ensemble or jazz combo) will vary in the number of members, the variety of instruments, and the particular jazz style they specialise in. Larger jazz bands are often made up of rhythm and horn sections, and some jazz bands feature singers.

There are many styles of jazz music and a band will usually specialise in one or two, such as Dixieland and traditional (aka trad.), swing, blues, modern, freestyle (or free) and acid jazz. Many acts also cover modern popular music in a jazz style. Whatever style you choose for your event, jazz music exudes cool and sophistication, and can provide a range of atmospheres, be it upbeat and lively, or sultry, mellow and chilled.

Jazz bands offer a complete entertainment package, with most providing all the equipment needed for their performance without the need to hire further sound and lighting equipment.

What music will a jazz band play?

The overarching term ‘jazz’ encompasses a wide variety of musical genres. While some jazz bands will stick to their speciality style, others can offer a range of genres or play popular music in a jazz style. A typical jazz band’s repertoire might feature artists such as:

  • Billie Holliday
  • Bing Crosby
  • Cole Porter
  • Connie Francis
  • Dean Martin
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Duke Ellington
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Etta James
  • Frank Sinatra
  • George Gershwin
  • Irving Berlin
  • Jamie Cullum
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Michael Bublé
  • Miles Davis
  • Nat King Cole
  • Nina Simone
  • Otis Redding
  • Charlie Parker

The set list for each artist is available to view on their individual profile page.

Popular types of jazz band

Alive Network’s most popular types of jazz band include:

1. Traditional jazz bands / Dixieland jazz bands

Encompassing old school jazz, classic Charleston music and the sounds of New Orleans, thought to be the birth place of jazz. Featuring artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Kid Ory.

2. Swing jazz bands

This style often features a singer, performing classic ‘Rat Pack’ tunes as sung by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior, but also Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller. Also includes contemporary music from artists like Michael Bublé and Jamie Cullum.

3. Jazz Standards bands

These bands usually take musical inspiration from the Great American Songbook and strongly melodic middle of the road (MOR) jazz classics. Jazz Standards bands sometimes include a singer, but not always.

4. Contemporary Pop Music in a jazz style

Many modern jazz musicians have taken influence from a variety of music genres. This musical versatility has spawned a huge increase of bands who can perform modern pop music with an authentic jazz style. This is perfect for customers who don’t know their Gershwin from their Grapelli but want that jazz sound and style at their event!

Is a jazz band suitable for my event?

Usually booked as the headline evening entertainment, but equally suitable for daytime occasions, jazz bands are perfect for events including:

Jazz bands can create a variety of atmospheres, personalised for your special occasion. Whether you want refined background music for a tea party or drinks reception, a sultry love serenade as your wedding ceremony entertainment or first dance, or something more spirited for a street party, fête or for a glitzy corporate event, a jazz band is the perfect accompaniment.

Once you’ve identified the ideal tone for your event, our Entertainment Coordinators can advise you on a range of bands who may be suitable, and talk you through the options available. As well as specialising in one or two particular jazz styles, many of our bands also offer popular music, that most of your guests will know and love, performed in their own inimitable style.

For weddings, a jazz band can often offer the complete entertainment package, providing music to complement the ceremony, wedding breakfast, and drinks reception, as well as background music between sets. The options available can help to keep costs down, instead of hiring separate artists for your wedding day.

For corporate events, jazz bands can provide lively walk-on music for awards ceremonies.

Volume considerations at your event

Depending on the style they’re playing in, a live jazz band’s volume can range from relatively quiet relaxed background music, where your guests can still hold a conversation, to energetic sets guaranteed to make you move! The louder performances can often be in the region of 95dB – 110dB (decibels) – this is a big sound and is comparable to the volume of a power mower. If a jazz band also features a horn section, this can raise the volume, with peaks around 120dB.

If you have your heart set on a larger jazz band but your venue has a sound limiter or noise restrictions, feel free to chat to our Entertainment Coordinators. They will be able to advise you further on what is possible. Bands can work with brushes or ‘hot rods’, rather than standard drumsticks, which can significantly reduce the overall volume of the band.

Space considerations at your event

A typical 4-piece band will need an area of around 4 metres wide by 3 metres deep performance space, but it is always useful to incorporate a bit more to ensure the artists can can really perform! For approximate requirements, see ‘How much space will a jazz band need?’, below.

How much does a jazz band cost?

The cost of a jazz band will vary depending on travel distance to your event, and the number of members in the band – from 3-piece combos to jazz orchestras with around 20 members, and anything in-between!

In 2017, the average price of a 3–5-piece jazz band is around £750 – £1,200.

Large, blue-ribbon big bands and jazz orchestras specialising in corporate events can vary in price between £2,500 – £10,000 depending on size and experience.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the cost range of different jazz bands and singers:

Type of Act Cost Range
Solo jazz singer (with backing tracks) £270 - £650
Solo jazz musician £200 - £600
Jazz Duos £250 - £1,100
3-piece bands £450 - £1,200
5-piece bands £700 - £2,700
7-piece bands + £1,200 - £3,700
Big bands & jazz orchestras £2,500 - £7,250+

Who are the top 10 best jazz bands in the UK right now?

Below are the artists that we feel currently represent the crème de la crème of UK jazz bands, based on a combination of popularity, performance quality and innovation:

For a list of Alive's most booked jazz bands right now, see our 'Top 10 Jazz Bands For Hire in 2017' article

How long will a jazz band play for?

The majority of jazz bands will usually offer two 60-minute performances for an evening party, though many can play for longer if required. Entertainment might also be split into three 40-minute sets, if preferred. For weddings and formal evening events, couples occasionally like jazz bands to play during their drinks reception and their evening meal. In this case, a band may perform three 60-minute sets for an additional charge. Our jazz bands tend to be pretty flexible around your event needs.

Start times for evening performances, usually work around your catering! If guests have just eaten, you will probably need to allow some time before they’re ready to get up and dance. For most evening events, the band would arrive at 6pm and get set up and sound checked by 7.30pm to 8pm. Performance might start at 9pm, with the second set at around 10.30pm, through to a standard midnight curfew. Many jazz bands also offer later/longer performances at an additional cost, including finishing times of 1am and 2am.

Jazz bands can provide background music from an MP3 player or laptop between their performances.

How much space will a jazz band need?

The area required for a jazz band varies, and will increase the more members are in the band. This guide shows approximately how much minimum space bands of different sizes need:

Type of Artist Performance Space Required
   3-piece jazz band: 3 x 3 metres
    4-piece jazz band: 4 x 3 metres
     5 and 6-piece jazz band: 5 x 3 metres
       7-piece and bigger: 5/6 x 4 metres

A jazz band ideally need a minimum of 1.5 square metres per musician, with drummers and pianists needing slightly more, around 2 square metres each. Space will also be needed in front and at the sides for the PA, speakers and lighting stands, if the band is using them. Consider the available space of your chosen venue, when thinking about the size of your jazz band – or book a venue with plenty of space! Because of the many variations of instruments available in our jazz ensembles, we recommend you discuss the space and booking options with your Entertainment Coordinator.

How long will it take for a jazz band to set up?

Unloading, setting-up and carrying out the crucial sound check usually takes an average of 60 – 90 minutes, depending on the size of the jazz ensemble, and how close they can park to the performance area. Many hotels require bands to load in via a shared supplier’s entrance, which can extend set up times.

Following the final set, it can take about 45 – 60 minutes to pack down and load out.

What equipment will a jazz band need?

Most jazz ensembles need:

  • a suitably-sized, safe, dry, flat performance area. If performing outside, they will need cover – either from the rain or the sun!
  • a minimum of two or three 13 amp power sockets, depending on the line-up
  • parking provision, preferably with easy access to the venue
  • a secure, lockable changing room
  • refreshments such as soft drinks and sometimes food, depending on how long you have booked them for.
  • Larger bands may have additional requirements in terms of chairs and tables but this will be discussed during the booking process.

Most of Alive Network’s jazz bands are self-contained units, providing their own PA system, microphones, stage lighting, backline amplifiers and instruments.

For information on the following, see our Frequently Asked Questions:

For a more comprehensive jazz band booking guide please read ‘Booking a jazz band – Everything you’ll ever need to know’.

If you have any other queries, simply visit our FAQ page.

Alternatively, our dedicated expert entertainment coordinators are on-hand to help. Simply call 0845 108 5500 or email enquiries@alivenetwork.com.

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