Professional musicians love to play jazz at parties. Good musicians who are working in studios or playing with pop groups often get together to play jazz on their “off” time. It’s a challenge, and it feels great to play. It offers musicians a unique experience to be expressive in ways that other types of music don’t necessarily allow. Jazz has a pretty standard repertoire, most of which is contained in a number of “fake books” that all jazz musicians own. When jazz players get together to jam, everyone brings their book of tunes, and we just play.
What most people find surprising is that when a jazz trio plays an event, the players in the band change from gig to gig. I can’t tell you how many parties I’ve played at where the host says, “Wow! You guys were great! How long have you been playing together?” And I explain that, in fact, this particular group has never played together in this configuration before that night. Jazz is played and performed in such a way that four great players who have never played together can open up a book of tunes, and play through a few of them, and they would sound like they had played together for years. This is because the structure of a jazz tune is such that everyone knows what’s going to happen: We play the melody (or “head”,) and then we play the same chord changes, but pass it around for solos. Once everyone has played a solo, we play the melody again, and end the tune. Each tune is played in essentially this same manner. Everyone is already familiar with the tunes, because they’re experienced players who have studied jazz. The know the melodies, and they know the chord changes.
Jazz musicians call these gigs “casuals.” A casual is a wedding, party, corporate event, or what have you. It’s called a casual because the musicians are not the main event. They are background music. And believe me, musicians love getting called for casuals. Like I said, if we weren’t playing at a party, we’d be getting together to play jazz in exactly the same manner for fun in somebody’s living room!
I have a pretty deep roster of pro players: drummers, singers, horn players, and keyboardists. All of them are professional studio musicians in Los Angeles who love to get together, put on a suit, and play three or four hours of great jazz. If you want to add just the right touch to your party, give me a call. I’ll assemble a band that will knock your socks off. (But very quietly!)