From the jazz cabarets of Paris in the 1920s, to the hard bop of Miles Davis’ 1950s New York, to the underground acid jazz parties of 1980s London, jazz bands have the rare ability of leaving a crowd simultaneously danced-out, dazzled, and always wanting more.
The term ‘jazz band’ covers a lot of ground. Jazz bands come in a variety of sizes, and each will usually focus on a certain genre or combine a few within their repertoire—these genres include swing, Dixieland/traditional, standards, contemporary, blues, free, acid, and plenty more.
With so much choice of live jazz bands for hire, it can be hard to know where to start! In this guide, we’ll de-mystify things for you, making the process of choosing and finding local jazz bands for hire simple and easy.
- The Basics
- Equipment & Setup
- How much space does a jazz band need?
- What equipment do I need to provide?
- Do I need a PA system?
- Do I need to provide food?
- Can a jazz band play outside?
- What dress code can I expect?
- Do I need to provide a keyboard?
- How long will the jazz band play for?
- Do I need to provide parking?
- How long does setup and sound check take?
Jazz is an extraordinarily wide-ranging musical label—just glancing at the range of jazz sub-genres can be a dizzying experience. On Encore, we have a diverse range of jazz bands, but the main types will usually fall into one of the following popular categories:
Swing jazz bands: this type of band focuses on the music of musicians/composers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller. This music became famous in the 1930s and 1940s—it was also re-invigorated in the 1950s and 1960’s by Nat King Cole, and the ‘Rat Pack’, which included singers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.
The most popular sub-genre of swing is gypsy jazz, popularised by the virtuoso guitarist, Django Reinhardt (who only played with his thumb, and two fingers!) We have a wonderful selection of gypsy jazz bands for hire that you can browse which is always a great way to entertain guests at corporate events or wedding receptions.
Dancing and swing music: what more could you want? The Swing Ninjas, showing us how it’s done!
Traditional jazz bands: also known as Dixieland, ragtime or New Orleans jazz, this genre sprang up as a reaction to the success of swing in Chicago. This style of jazz doesn’t normally use saxophones, focusing more on the clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and even the banjo and tuba at times. Artists like Sidney Bechet, Joe “King” Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton brought wider recognition to this style with their incredible compositions and stylish soloing. If you’re like for New Orleans jazz bands for hire, we have you covered!
OJ and his Rag Tag Swing and Gypsy Jazz Orchestra—need we say more?
Jazz standards bands: you know when you hear a jazz piece and you’re certain you’ve heard it before? It was probably a jazz standard! These tunes have become a part of the jazz canon and are the bedrock of a jazz musician’s education. They are drawn from the Great American Songbook, as well as popular Broadway/Hollywood musicals—songs include Autumn Leaves, The Girl from Ipanema, So What, and Take Five, among many others. The tunes are normally very melodic and will often include a singer (or an instrument will play the singer’s melody).
Jazz band, the Debonairs Quartet, nailing some famous jazz standards!
Post-modern jukebox bands: definitely the newest of the genres we’ve mentioned so far; these bands reimagine pop classics, playing them in a variety of jazz styles. Popularised by the band, ‘Postmodern Jukebox’, in 2011, this style has grown rapidly, and many bands are now providing fresh jazz-tinged versions of not only pop, but all manner of genres, from hip-hop to country.
If you’re hosting a vintage-themed or Great Gatsby inspired event, our selection of postmodern jazz bands can cater to your every need!
Never heard a jazz version of Britney Spears? Today is your lucky day! Nouveau Lounge reimagines the classic pop anthem, ‘Oops…I Did It Again’, in this video
Not sure what style you want? Start by checking out the videos in this blog, and if you’re hungry for more, head to Encore’s jazz band category page and listen to different bands’ audio/video clips to get ideas of which styles you like. You can even filter by location to find bands near you!
Jazz bands come in all shapes and sizes—when hiring a jazz band for a wedding, party or corporate event, depending on the context, they can either perform background music or play a headline performance.
For most jazz bands, a background performance is the natural choice, and would be well-suited to black-tie events, like corporate events, or charity events. Jazz musicians are masters of keeping the music lively, while not being so loud as to take over conversation.
However, with the rise of post-modern jukebox, jazz bands are also being used more and more for headline performances, for example as the perfect style of wedding jazz bands. These performances are designed to get guests up on their feet and dancing during the evening party or as your choice of jazz band for wedding receptions.
So, if you’re after 1920s jazz bands for hire who mix the roaring 20s with the swinging 60s with the naughty 90s, this’ll be your go-to!
Jazz band sizes range from trios to a full 20-person band—how many people you want in the band will be completely up to you, and should be chosen based on the mood, or tone, you want to set at the event. A trio or quartet might be the perfect solution for a low-key dinner or tea-party, whereas a large 15–20 person big band would be nicely suited for a street party or awards ceremony.
Most groups can be flexible about the size in order to suit your budget and needs.
As above, jazz bands really do come in a range of sizes, so how much space they’ll need will depend on how many musicians will be performing.
A general guide:
- each musician: 1.5m x 1.5m
- the drummer/pianist: 2m x 2m
- Trio: 3m x 3m
- 7 piece band: 6m x 4m
More space is always better than less, so it’s a good idea to speak to your venue about your space requirements; they should be able to assist with making sure your band is well provided for on this front. The band will also be give you a precise idea of how much room they’ll need, taking into consideration equipment (if they’re using a PA system or lights).
The band will need enough electrical sockets to hook up all the amplification equipment: about three or four sockets should do. They may also need chairs without arms.
Most jazz bands will bring their own amplification, but if your venue is regularly used for live music, they may be able to use the existing venue PA system.
Musicians will appreciate bottled water and tea/coffee/biscuits upon arrival. Meals are always welcome, though generally not required unless your event is over a mealtime.
Yes, as long as the weather is warm enough and adequate shelter (a gazebo or marquee that completely covers the group) and a power source is provided. Be sure to tell the musicians if they are expected to play outside as it will affect their preparations!
Jazz bands will usually dress to suit the style of the music—cocktail dresses or gowns for the ladies, and smart suits/tuxes for the men. They can also wear performance blacks if that would be preferred.
Most jazz ensembles will readily provide their own keyboard, but may be able to use the venue piano so long as it is in good repair and in-tune.
Jazz band sets are usually 45–50 minutes long, with a 10–15 minute break between sets; the most common length for a full performance is 2 hours. The short break between sets gives them time a chance to catch their breath, re-tune, and ultimately keep the music going for longer! Start-times will normally revolve around catering, and should be planned with the venue/event organiser to make sure the band are scheduled to start at an appropriate time.
Yes, the band will generally have a lot of kit to transport, unless they specify otherwise. If there is no parking near the door, they will need to be able to unload and then move the car.
Roughly an hour for a quartet, and about 90 minutes for a 7+ piece band. This will give them time to load in their gear, get warmed up, and sound-check.
- I’ll Take That New Orleans Music – Sidney Bechet
- High Society – Kid Ory
- When The Saints Go Marching In – Bunk Johnson
- Wild Man Blues – Jelly Roll Morton
- Bugle Call Rag – Billy Banks
- New Orleans Stomp – Johnny Dodds
- Twelfth Street Rag – Louis Armstrong
- Ballin’ The Jack – Eddie Condon
- In The Mood – Glenn Miller
- Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman
- Take The “A” Train – Duke Ellington
- On the Sunny Side of the Street – Count Basie
- Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Fats Weller
- I’ll Never Smile Again – Tommy Dorsey
- Satin Doll – Duke Ellington
- Take Five – Dave Brubeck
- ‘Round Midnight – Thelonius Monk
- So What – Miles Davis
- Summertime – Ella Fitzgerald
- My Funny Valentine – Chet Baker
- My Favourite Things – John Coltrane
- The Girl From Ipanema – Joao Donato/Stan Getz
- Body and Soul – Coleman Hawkins
- Misty – Erroll Garner
- Caravan – Duke Ellington
- All The Things You Are – Charlie Parker
- In A Sentimental Mood – Art Tatum
- Autumn Leaves – Cannonball Adderley
- My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion
- All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor
- Single Ladies – Beyonce
- Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
- You Give Love A Bad Name – Jon Bon Jovi
- Oops!… I Did It Again – Britney Spears
- Mr Brightside – The Killers
- Wonderwall – Oasis
- Umbrella – Rihanna
Absolutely! Most jazz bands know a huge range of music, so make sure you check their song list first, as your request might just be there.
Otherwise, let the band know early; in the unlikely event they’re not already familiar with your song, they will need adequate time to prepare. While most bands will learn an extra song for free, please be aware that some may charge for this extra service (especially if you’d like them to learn multiple new songs!)
Want to impress your guests? I think the Diamond Skyline Orchestra might do the trick! Available to book on Encore, with a flexible line-up to suit your event
We recommend booking as soon as you can, especially if you have any special musical requests.
However, last-minute bookings happen all the time at Encore, and we can easily find you a jazz band at short notice if needed!
For a standard 2x 45min performance, you can expect to pay approximately:
- £150 per person for a hobbyist or student band
- £220 per person for a professional band
- £300+ per person for a high-end luxury band
These prices are based on thousands of quotes that jazz bands have made through the Encore platform; they are intended to give you an idea of starting prices, rather than a precise costing.
For a more comprehensive overview of jazz band prices, including information on seasonality, travel considerations, and types of jazz band performances, read our comprehensive Jazz Band Price Guide here: How much does it cost to hire a jazz band? UK 2018 Price Guide
They often say ‘good things come in threes’—that’s certainly the case here! The Èchappeé Trio, playing a stylish rendition of ‘Indiana’
You may have to factor in travel costs if the band is not local. Most bands have a set radius from their home (generally 15-20 miles) and charge extra for any travel outside that area. Whether you are looking for a jazz band for hire in London or anywhere else in the UK, we have jazz bands all over the country, so we can usually find someone close to your location.
The standard rate is 45p/mile per person so if the band needs to travel 50 miles each way, that’s an additional £45/person for 100 miles of travel. This amount is included as a rough guide—each band will set their own fees.
Because there is so much equipment to carry, bands will usually charge a porterage fee to cover the delivery and setup. Some groups will quote porterage and travel separately from their own fee while others will simply charge a lump sum.
The simplest way to handle contracts and payment is to book through Encore. Our bookings process is extremely straightforward, and once you have confirmed a booking with your chosen band, contracts and payments are handled painlessly and effortlessly by our secure ‘Encore Pay’ payment system.
Feel free to email us at [email protected], or put through an enquiry with one of our exciting jazz bands; we’d be so excited to assist you to find the perfect jazz and swing bands for hire to suit your event!
Cover image courtesy of Love For Sale