From work parties to weddings, a jazz band is a great choice to bring some style to your event. Straddling the gap between the timeless class of a string quartet and the contemporary cool of rock or pop, a jazz band can switch between mellow, soulful music to toe-tapping tunes that will get your guests up and dancing.
From the smooth swing stylings of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra to the virtuoso improvisations of Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong, jazz has a versatility that can be adapted for the mood and intent of whatever event you’re planning, and is guaranteed to make for a memorable evening.
Whether you’re hiring a jazz band for London, Lincoln or Leicester, Headliner is your one-stop shop. Check out The Jake Leg Jug Band, Cafe Manouche, The Supreme Collective and many more jazz bands for hire on our Jazz band page.
- Decide what you want the jazz band to do
Ryan Gosling’s character from La La Land would probably kill us for even suggesting it, but before you even start looking at jazz bands for hire, you’ll want to have a think about the purpose you want your act to fulfil.
Maybe you’re planning something impressive that your guests will stop and listen to, in which case you’ll probably want an enchanting singer or some heavy-duty drums and bass to bring serious flair to your event.
But if your wedding or gala is better suited to something low key, you may want to opt for some mellow background jazz. In this case you should consider picking quieter instruments like a double bass and keys over loud trumpets and a vocalist who will be distracting or drowned out. Consider booking a small jazz band, or negotiating the lineup of the band for your event.
- Factor in travel costs
Instruments can fill up a van or two in very short order, and you’re unlikely to find many jazz bands living in domestic bliss under a single room. That is to say, there will probably be some serious logistics involved in your intended jazz band getting themselves together and to your venue, so expect travel costs to be added to their fee.
And it goes without saying that if you hire a jazz band for a London performance, they probably won’t want to travel down from Aberdeen for the privilege. Look at where your band is based and think about how convenient it will be to get them to you. The further they have to come, the higher the travel fee.
- Be realistic with your timings
When it comes to guessing any length of time, it’s easy to underestimate, so you’ll want to plan with the band to set up a realistic schedule for your event. You don’t want them to have to rush and skip their sound check, but nor do you want to waste their time (and likely incur higher fees) by keeping them waiting longer than necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask the band for guidance on how long they are likely to need.
At the same time, there’s no point in trying to plan everything down to the second. Events have a tendency of running over, and you and the jazz band you’ve hired will all be happier if you’ve allowed for a bit of wiggle room.
The later your event goes on, the more it will affect the band too, especially if they were hoping to lug that double bass home on public transport, so expect to incur an additional charge if you want a band to stay into the wee small hours.
- Check your venue restrictions
The better informed your jazz band is about the venue, the easier things are likely to go, so it pays to find out the information early and have it ready for them when you start contacting potential acts on Headliner.
Start with the basics by checking how much space the venue can offer. Small jazz bands might not struggle, but for bigger ensembles the singer needs be able to perform without fear of being clobbered over the head by the saxophonist.
You should also investigate any factors that could affect the band’s arrival, setup and performance, from access to the venue (including any issues like broken lifts or narrow doorways) to parking and power supplies. Many venues come fitted with sound limiters1 that will temporarily cut the power if the decibels get too high – and threaten to damage your performers’ instruments as well as the mood of your party.
Anything you can think of ahead of time is another factor you won’t have to worry about later.
- Look after your band
Musicians are people too! Events can be stressful and time-consuming, but don’t forget that your jazz band is going to have a busy time on their hands as well. After loading and unloading their equipment, an hour or two of driving, setting up and sound-checking, they will be starting to get hungry, so make sure you’ve factored feeding them into your plans. Show them the way to the toilet and any other essentials they might need.
Don’t forget to check in on them throughout the event, as, like beautiful flowers, jazz bands will wilt if they are not kept hydrated. (When it comes to rider requests like puppies and bowls of blue M&Ms, we invite you to use your own discretion.)
- Be flexible and realistic with your requests
When it comes to weddings, it’s a given that your jazz band will do everything they can to deliver the first dance you want, but as for the rest of their set list, you really want to play to their strengths and knowledge. You mights have some grand plans for a Radio 1 Live Lounge inspired mashup of all of Taylor Swift’s greatest hits, but chances are that might be a bit far out of their remit.
Bands will know what they do best, what goes down well with audiences and how to structure their set lists. Discuss with them to work out a set list that will satisfy everyone, incorporating requests that will work bests with the band’s repertoire.
- Always check the terms and conditions
You probably know by now to read the small print. You’ll want to be aware of their terms on cancellation and emergencies and prepare contingencies accordingly.
1 Sound limiter – Usually a box attached to the wall with a microphone inside and a traffic light system on the front. If the sound being produced in the room is higher than the set threshold it will indicate red. Most time limiters are wired into the plug sockets and will cut the power if the limiter shows red for more than eight seconds. This means all music/sound could stop abruptly in the middle of a swinging rendition of ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’, and it can take up to ten seconds for the power to return. Cutting the power in this way can be very damaging to musical equipment, and your band can hold you responsible if you did not warn them.↩