Most people love swing music in some form or other, and clients have the image of a Swing Band or Rat Pack Band providing a sophisticated atmosphere with quality music style for their event. Many people want something different and upmarket (as opposed to yet another generic pop band), and that’s certainly a great choice given that swing music is still massively popular.
Swing music is great to dance and jive to, but it can have limited appeal at a party. Yet another “Mack the knife” style song at 11.15pm after an hour and a half of swing doesn’t always hit the spot for party people, who by that time want something more funky!
So when it comes to private parties the band must be able to deliver and authentic Swing sound, whilst also having the ability and flexibility to play other, more contemporary dancing styles that appeal to a wider audience and make sure that all generations can party together.
Unless your event has a purely vintage theme, e.g. a rat pack evening, it’s important to ensure that the band has the ability to transform into a “party band” later on in the evening – and sound like one! Lets face it, “Everything” by Buble, although a great song, doesn’t have the same effect on the dance floor as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” or Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long”.
Not all musicians know how to play more than one style well. Playing big band style swing music from proper musical charts requires professionally trained jazz musicians, whereas pure pop and rock musicians can’t play swing. Jazz musicians however can play most other styles (think Funk Brothers, responsible for most of the Motown hits). The same goes for vocalists. To sing swing, you need that smooth crooner timbre in your voice and the phrasing, but not all singers have what it takes to cross over to other styles (without sounding like Sinatra channelling Otis Redding) where you need that raspy edge and rocker attitude for pop and soul.
So if you decide to book a swing band and you want them to be able to carry the evenings entertainment, then it’s worth spending some time scrutinising how well they play other styles. Having a variety of genres, a setlist that flows and knowing how to flexibly work the crowd with appropriate tunes at different points throughout the evening will keep the party flowing. Plus you can still finish with a grand “New York, New York” finale!