Monday, June 2, 2014

Is Live Music Affordable?

Buying live music is something that most people do only a few times in their lives—a wedding, a  40th anniversary, a christening or bar mitzvah. It can be a  difficult and more complicated process than sorting through the myriad of options when purchasing a new piece of technology like a smart phone device or computer. Many assume that a band is just too expensive, hard to manage, too loud, too much trouble, too daunting to purchase. Not true. Bands can be affordable. The fact is, however, that a band is usually one of the last purchases made, and by the time you get around to music, you are overwhelmed and overspent. Bands do have a large price range. The larger agencies with flashy show-type bands (4 singers up front, large horn section and concert style sound systems) are expensive. They can run $8, 000 to $15, 000. A smaller band, like ourselves, carries a self-contained sound system, with 6 to 8 musicians, giving you great value. You get singers, horns, and a rhythm section (with the same variety of music as the bigger more expensive bands) at a competitive FRACTION OF THE PRICE. You often get better service, too, because you are actually dealing with bandleaders who will be present at your party, instead of a representative or agent which is one layer away from communication between you and musicians. In our case, as bandleaders, we are invested in every part of your event. We help you in the planning, work on musical selections, and with you through the entire event. And the great news is, the price can range from $2000-5000, depending on the number of musicians and hours, (whether there are musicians for cocktail hour or ceremony, on the day of the event.) That price is comparable to the cost of a DJ, and you get all the benefits of having real LIVE musicians playing and singing especially for you. And guess what? WE CAN DJ for you too, if there is club music you want or you just need to hear the original version of a special song. So, if you are interested in live music and concerned about price, give us a call. We are the bandleaders and musicians. There are no middle-men, no agent or sales fees. We are flexible and happy to work with you on a plan that fits you, your tastes, your party, your budget, and gives you GREAT VALUE.
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Donna: 201-410-7276 John: 201-795-3907

Monday, May 26, 2014

"I Want to Have a Live Band"

When you are planning a wedding, an anniversary, fundraiser, or any party, the question of music is a central piece of the planning puzzle. Music sets the mood. It sets the tone. It gets people excited, dancing, singing along or just groovin'. It adds so much to any event that the positive effect it has is almost indescribable. So if you’re wondering about having a live band, you can feel confident that nothing is better than live music. When you walk into a catering hall, a restaurant, a nightclub and there is live music (vs. recorded music from an iPod or a DJ), there is a tremendous energy lift; something interesting and fun to see and hear. The sound is not manufactured, auto-tuned, or one-dimensional.  Recorded music you only hear. Live music gets inside of you, providing multi-dimensional sensory input: you hear, see, and feel, reaching all your senses, adding incalculable joy to the proceedings. It’s very gratifying for us to hear that our live music creates a totally unique and unforgettable  experience for our happy and satisfied clients that their guests will remember long into the future. In our next blog, we'll talk about the great affordability of live music, so stay "tuned..."
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Donna: 201-410-7276 John: 201-795-3907

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Night(s) The Lights Went Out

Being a versatile, professional band means being prepared for any situation that might arise, including the unanticipated, requiring us to be even more nimble and flexible.

Last year we played a New Jersey Winery on a day with intense thunderstorms in the area, which were just starting to clear up around our evening start time. As we set up to play the cocktail hour with our piano trio, we were unexpectedly unplugged by nature. Down the road a tree limb had fallen, knocking out power lines. In the meantime, the crowd gathered for cocktails. What to do? Luckily, our trusty bass player brought his acoustic upright and small battery-powered amp, our drummer needed no power, and our pianist is our lead singer—so we began making music: vocals, bass and drums. The crowd loved the unpredictably fun and innovative approach. The bride and groom wrote to us, “Only the best of musicians could have pulled that one off.”

Then came time to play the main tent for the reception of 200+ guests: still no power. So, with drums, acoustic bass, guitar, and saxophone, we kept it going. Our four excellent singers, while preferring amplification, belted out tunes with volume and heart. It's amazing what can be heard when you turn down (or in this case, turn off) the amplifiers. The bossa-novas, standards, and pop tunes convinced the crowd that the impending darkness would not ruin their candlelit celebration. As they moved to dance floor, so did we-- singing, harmonizing, playing and dancing alongside them. As we waited for the generator's arrival, we continued playing Motown, doo-wop, and unplugged rock 'n roll. With the generator finally in place, three hours later, the power came on, the guests were jubilant, and the energy of the crowd rose along with the lights.

Similarly, near Lake Placid in New York, a downed power line near the historic hotel venue threatened a ruined party, so we quickly rolled in the vintage upright piano from the lobby, gathered on the dance floor with vocalists and horn players, and serenaded and danced the crowd for 2+ hours until power was restored. But the wackiest power outage story of all occurred at a New Jersey Country Club during 
a summer thunderstorm several years ago. Again, we managed to wheel in an on-site piano and were having a ball playing unplugged in the candlelit dining room when someone approached us announcing he was a member of Whitney Houston’s road crew. He said he carried a generator in his truck for “just these types of emergencies.” “Want me to back up the truck to this door and hook you up with electricity?” he asked. “Of course” we said, and he did. That party got the best of all blackout situations—a candlelit dinner dance with a plugged-in band.

It's hard for a client to prepare for such contingencies, but rest assured, we are, like a troop of Eagle Scouts, always prepared.
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Donna: 201-410-7276 John: 201-795-3907

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Versatility is Our Specialty Pt. 2

 So how does this hard earned versatility translate into gigs?

In this past year, clients have hired us for a number of themed events that put our skill and commitment to the test. We played a show at Greenburgh Public Library where we put together a 90 minute set of songs from 1963 (to celebrate the library’s 50th anniversary) the set included covers of Martha and the Vandellas, Johnny Cash, The Drifters, Leslie Gore, The Ronnettes, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles. This was concert presentation that included some story telling, song histories, and some history of the period, and great renditions of wonderful classics. During our post-show "meet and greet," our audience members had a chance to reveal to us some of their own memories we helped evoke.

We played a couple Gatsby themed fundraising events this year as well. Dolled up in tuxes, gowns, and spats we played music from the era in the early parts of the evening (beginning with a cocktail hour that featured some great stride piano renditions of 20’s and 30’s music) and then morphed into dance music that included Motown, Big Band, contemporary, and some ballads for the couples. We traveled to Lancaster PA to play a sock hop party, where we dressed the part again, and gave a rollicking show that included 50’s and 60’s rock n roll, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, and some of that 1963 material.

In the summer we were called on to play the Hyatt Dialogue (for the 12th time) where we performed hits from the 70’s for an international crowd of travel agents and event planners that included tunes from Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, and, of course, plenty of Disco. Other themes we have done for the Hyatt have been 1920’s, country, Big Band, and Classic Rock.

Of course, when we play a wedding or an anniversary, we are thinking about the whole crowd—the couple, of course, sets the tone with their taste in music, but there are a lot of people to please, the young crowd, the extended family, folks from different parts of the country and overseas. We have our repertoire of ethnic music that includes horas, polkas, and Italian (Donna sings in several languages). Our New Year’s Eve gig at the Four Seasons caters to a largely international crowd, and we know how to please them as well.

We have traveled this year to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, the Finger Lakes Region in New York, Connecticut, and still do plenty of playing in New York and New Jersey. When you get around like that, you better be versatile.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Versatility is Our Specialty, Part 1

We are, oftentimes, asked by clients and guests at our gigs, “What is your specialty? What do you really like to play?” This used to be a difficult question to answer because we felt the answer needed to fill the box the question posed.  So we would try to come up with favorite songs, artists, grooves, styles, etc.

The fact is we have spent our whole musical lives (and thus, much of our lives) exploring all genres of music. We got into music because we fell in love with the sound made by some singer or band or song and we wanted to know, “How do they do that?” We studied our instruments, sang along with the radio or the record or CD, put together a band, started recreating recordings we heard and loved, and began playing for people and, voila! They liked it!

As we grew as musicians, learned more about our instruments and voices, we got exposed to all kinds of music; old rock ‘n roll, new hits on the radio, jazz from some crazy saxophone player’s collection, and dance music from the parties we attended.  It all seeped in and became a part of our musical selves.

As professionals today, our approach to this wide range of material is more calculated and efficient—“got a gig coming up, have these song requests, have these styles to play, learn these tunes, pull out some we have done for years, and keep the party rolling” but that magic of discovery never faded.  Someone asks for a new tune by Jason Mraz, we check it out and say, “cool, we can pull that off, sound good and add it to our repertoire.” If someone wants to hear an obscure old Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald duet, we find our own spin and fall in love with it all over again.  We hear buzz about the new dance floor sensation by Pink or Cee Lo or Avicii, learn it, rehearse it, refine it and reap the rewards when the dance floor fills with folks whooping and hollering. Sometimes we decide it’s time to run that Motown set, our Prince medley, ABBA tunes and we see young and old react in the same way…. leave their seats, run to the dance floor, and become one with the music we play.  Those experiences are fun for the crowd, pleasing to the client, and gratifying and exciting for us.

So, now, when folks ask us “What is your specialty?” we say “Our specialty is our versatility” because we approach the music with the same commitment we did when we were slaving over the recordings of our favorite bands, trying to get that lick or turn of phrase just right. We have studied and perfected our approach to a wide variety of sounds, styles, and grooves and we, literally, feel a thrill making all this material sound good.  Frankly, it amazes our audiences to hear the variety we play, and how well we do it.  It’s also cool for us to see and hear the great reaction we get to the wide variety of material we do.

Next week we’ll talk about how this approach to versatility works in different situations, such as a themed event focusing on a certain style or genre, or at an party where we play the soup to nuts kind of variety that works so well when you have a wide audience to please, such as at a wedding or fundraiser.

Monday, February 17, 2014

On Being a Band

When you are searching for a band for an event, wedding, fundraiser you find yourself scouring through site after site of groups claiming to be “New York's finest musicians,”"a really fun band,” “non stop dancing,” “we have played New York's finest venues,” "personalized service,,” and, you know,  all of that stuff. It makes it hard to distinguish one organization from the next. Having said that, however, we use some of the same catch phrases in our own marketing. 

It is true, that we have played for Kings and dignitaries, at the Waldorf in New York, Castle Hill in Newport in New England and in many places in Europe, even Africa and Asia. Our players and singers have done Broadway shows, won Emmy awards, backed famous musicians at the Grammy's and on Letterman, played for rock stars and grandmas. We are among the really great bands that come out of the New York scene – a center of the entertainment business where musicians, entertainers, singers are abundant and operating at a very high level. 

We are first and foremost, however, a genuine band, not just a collection of talented individuals.

We have played together for many years.  We have chemistry and solid, smooth communication on stage. We support each other and the music and task at hand. To keep the crowd moving, we all pitch in with our parts, suggestions, little transitions made seamlessly from tune to tune, so the dancer never loses the groove. We depend on each other.  For example, the aforementioned transition might be handled by the drummer in one context, or led by Donna in another.  Dave on guitar may take the lead with his solo or a rhythm, taking the set to a higher level. The horn players are always at the ready with parts memorized or improvised on the spot, and background singers jump in with parts to fill out the music. Meanwhile the MD (musical director) is thinking steps ahead, making sure that all works smoothly together.

So, while we are a talented collection of individuals with great credentials (we will cover that in our next post), we are, first and foremost, a unit, a band… Straight Ahead, the band. 
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