Could this work?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by PauFerro, Dec 22, 2014.

  1. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    OK, I'm in a lull period and am ideating again. I want to form a group composed of a core of jazz musicians who also play rock. Keys, bass and drums. They will do background music at events that have a pre-dance social or dinner period.

    Then, we move to a dance section. We play simple, but good dance hits that get the crowd moving. this group would allow me to use the same musicians for both a jazz and rock-oriented group, with adding a sax player for the rock portion.

    I don't like working with singers if I can help it. They control repertoire, if they quit, your hard work goes out the window. Often, they don't read music and therefore, don't do charts very well. They are a lot of work to get ready for a gig. They are very hard to sub if not available.

    They also tend to be more limited in the songs they can sing, compared to instrumentalists who seem to be able to do so much more.

    So, do you think a dance band can be successful as an instrumental band? Keys, drums, bass, and sax? (with maybe a guitar in there too)? Play danceable tunes like Elvis Presley, Motown, Creedence Clearewater Revival, maybe even newer songs that lend themselves to an instrumental approach?

    I notice in my smooth jazz band that people do get up and dance to many of the rockier jazz tunesl like Watermelon Man, Comin' Home Baby, certain bossas -- could this be extended get people dancing to a sax-fronted version of Blue Suede Shoes, Rock Around the Clock, I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Billie Jean (heard a smooth jazz tribute that could be made poppier and rockier), Stray Cat Strut (Stray Cats), Hurt So Good, Old Time Rock and Roll, September, Come Together, Don't Know Why (Norah Jones).

    Comments I think through this.
    Capt.Obvious likes this.
  2. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    Booker T & the MG's, The Mar Keys and The Ventures made a lot of great dance music.
  3. Look at the new master sounds. They are instrumental and really, really popular.
  4. People dance just fine to swing and latin jazz. You could stay jazz 3-pce all night and just get the drummer to change brushes to sticks at half time. Then they go home talking about the cooking jazz band instead of the lame rock band.
    Capt.Obvious likes this.
  5. Not that you'd necessarily be musically lame, but rock with no singer turns a lot of people cold.
  6. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I think its a good idea of you got a good group of musicians that can swing it. Some "questions" that pop into my head:

    -What kind of client exactly, would be seeking out this service? Sounds like you have something in mind, just curious.

    -Would these sorts of gigs be frequent enough to hold onto a core group that can pull it off?

    -Would the rock set be note for note covers, or your own version of popular rock/dance songs? I'm assuming you would be doing your own version of tunes, which is cool.

    -Interchangeable equipment? You'd have to make sure your gear works for both styles.

    All things that can be worked with of course. I think at the end of the day the question is, does the cost/effort outweigh the benefit? I think it could if you have the gigs flowing.
  7. Meh, good singers dont' have any of the weaknesses you describe. Nothing wrong with instrumental or jazz, but rock minus lyrics often becomes elevator music IMO.
    Pacman likes this.
  8. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    That's exactly what I thought when the OP mentioned CCR. I'd stick with covers that were originally instrumentals as much as possible.
    Capt.Obvious and Winfred like this.
  9. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    If you're gonna do this, go the Jazz route.

    I tried it several years ago with a great bunch of guys. Instrumental Blues and Jazz. It kinda works, in the right environment, but getting gigs is extremely difficult without a singer.

    We ended up playing lots of small clubs, and made very little money.

    Bottom line - people like singers. Playing instrumentals is cool, especially when you can bring in a sax guy, keys, some Latin percussion, etc. People really appreciate that versatility. But good singers rule the roost, man. It's just the way it is.
    INTP likes this.
  10. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Honestly, that will limit opportunities. You'll get some gigs but without a vocalist, many agents will balk at booking you. You can bill it as a jazz/funk band similar to what Brian Culbertson does. But most folks like sing-alongs. My biggest peeve is working with vocalists with limited range causing tunes to be downtuned. I don't mind a few tunes but not the whole shebang! If I were you, try partnering up with the music dept. from a local Uni as many times you'll have young hungry students willing to get out and gig. You'll have plenty to choose from.
  11. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Sounds like the idea is a bit of a loser, then. I appreciate the input...I probably won't do it, although I think I might try weaving a few of the instrumental dance hits into the jazz repertoire to gauge everyone's reaction.

    I will answer one question above though -- the one about who we are targeting. Probably the jazz crowd that comes out and likes to dance to the music we play. They dance to Cantalope Island, Watermelon Man, Song for My father, and definitely, the instrumental R&B tunes we do. Even autumn leaves.

    However, I see that as a fairly limited crowd -- only a few of them actually get up and dance. I thought perhaps others might like it, but I see now that's unlikely.

    Years ago, when I started my first band, a rather arrogant player asked me that question. Who are we targeting, and is there a market for the kind of music you want to play?

    My answer to that question is "I don't know, but we can find out". This meant putting together a sample of three songs we do, and then going out and trying to sell the band with them, plus a business card that was ambiguous enough to allow us to sell future incarnations of the band if the concept at the time was a dud. If it we got bookings, fine. If not, well, we would know. With only an investment in three songs, it wasn't going to be a big deal.
    Seanto likes this.
  12. Any jazz player worth paying can jam out over a rock progression, experiment away.

    I forget what Elton John request we blagged one night, it was fun for all.

    End of night that's all that matters, everyone having fun.
    Capt.Obvious likes this.
  13. What DownUnder said, any jazz cat worth his salt can lay down a chunkier rock groove than most "rock" bands and plenty of rock tunes in The Real Book already. If you don't want to pick up vocals, I'd steer clear of modern rock or pop covers. You'd run the risk of just sounding like a cover band that had it's singer no show. But no reason you can't mix in some modern pop and rock stuff into a jazz combo, it'll be better anyway. :cool:

    Try some options like this!

    Get some vocals and 'bossa nova-ify' some pop tunes and keep it jazzy.

    PauFerro likes this.
  14. Any chance one of your instrumentalists can sing?
    10cc likes this.
  15. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    There are a ton of bossified tunes out there on youtube -- and I like many of them. Someone asked if any of our instrumentalists can sing -- even if they could, I wouldn't want to do it that way given "singeritis" -- that band affliction which disables the whole group when the vocalist is not available,quits, or decides s/he wants s different band..
    Capt.Obvious likes this.
  16. I totally get LSD, but you surmise your instrumentalists do NOT have any type of dysfunction. Why would they not; why would they then have LSD if only they sang as well? Just because they can sing? Your killer bass player may cop an attitude and split. ;-) Your group is small - if ANY one of them quits for whatever reason, you're still up the proverbial creek.

    LOL Not ALL people who sing acquire LSD. Just sayin'....
  17. friendlybass


    Jul 19, 2012
    Guitar or keys player that can sing could make or break it.
  18. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    In a purely instrumental band, this wouldn't be a problem because the tunes would be selected for fast learning, and there would be subs to cover the first call players if they quit or were not available. That would be one of the assumptions of the band, and the repertoire -- that everyone is free to move on, to join other groups, or whatever they want to do. My peace comes from knowing I can sub anyone in any position.
  19. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    The idea is to NOT have a singer. If I built the band with instrumentalists who can sing, that would make it even harder to sub players. Relying on musicians who do two things in a band kills the flexibility I'm looking for. They are very hard to replace.
  20. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    No. Good luck though.