06.02.14Is 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, gives you great value. You get singers, horns, and a rhythm section with the same variety of music 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.

05.26.14"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..."

04.13.14The 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

02.08.14On 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.

01.21.14Versatility is Our Specialty, Part 2

So how does this hard-earned versatility translate into gigs?

This past year, clients have hired us for a number of themed events that has put our skill and commitment to the test. We played a show at Greenburgh Public Library in NY where we created a 90-minute musical retrospective of songs from 1963 (to celebrate the library’s fiftieth anniversary). The set included classic covers of Martha and the Vandellas, Johnny Cash, The Drifters, Leslie Gore, The Ronnettes, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles. This intimate concert presentation included some story telling, song histories, and a bit of history of the period. During the post-show "meet and greet," our audience members had a chance to reveal to us some of their own memories we helped invoke.

All dolled up in tuxes, gowns, pearls, beads, fringe and spats, we played Gatsby themed fundraising events this year featuring music from the flapper era (beginning with a cocktail hour that featured some great stride piano renditions of 1920’s and 1930’s music), then morphed into classic dance music including Motown, Big Band, contemporary/Top 40, and ballads for the couples. We traveled to Lancaster, PA. to play a summertime sock hop party, where, again, we happily dressed the part and gave a rollicking show including throwback 50’s and 60’s rock 'n roll, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, and some of those aforementioned 1963 numbers.

In summer, we were called on to play the Hyatt Dialogue event in NYC (for the twelfth time) where we performed hits from the 1970’s for an international crowd of travel agents and event planners, including tunes by Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, and, of course, plenty of Disco. Other themes we’ve performed for the Hyatt included 1920’s, Country, Big Band, and Classic Rock.

When we play a wedding or an anniversary party, we are thinking about the crowd as a whole. The couple, of course, sets the tone with their taste in music, but there are a lot of people to please; various generations from young to old, extended family, folks from different parts of the country and those from overseas. Our repertoire of ethnic music includes horas, polkas, Portuguese, Greek, and Italian (Donna sings in several languages). Our annual New Year’s Eve gig at the Four Seasons New York caters to a largely international crowd, and we've developed a reputation, over fifteen years, for pleasing 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'd better be versatile.

01.15.14Versatility is Our Specialty, Part 1

Oftentimes, we are 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.

01.07.14Had a Blast at The Four Seasons New York for New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve can be a wonderful experience, especially if you’re surrounded with close friends and family members. That's how we feel every year, to be so lucky to play with our band "family," this year celebrating a milestone of 15 years with our Four Seasons New York family!

On New Year’s Eve 2014, we played an eclectic recipe of songs we love. A marvelous musical mix of classic greats - ballads and dance hits through the decades, from Sinatra, Buble, Swing to Stones, Jumpswing to Journey, Beatles to Bowie, Motown to Mercy by Duffy, Disco to Downtown, 80s, 90s, with a fun dash of contemporary hits from Adele, Avicii, Coldplay, Daft Punk, Pink and more. We pride ourselves on pleasing everyone with a tune they love. As usual, we took requests and our excited audience whipped into full party mode! It was, indeed, a memorable New Year’s for us. We hope you had as much fun too.

If you’re interested in hiring a professional band with extreme versatility, get in touch with us. We love to play fund raisers, corporate events, shows, weddings, birthday celebrations, anniversary parties, and just about every kind of event. Give us a call today!

01.01.14Rockin' in New Years Eve 2014!

What a GREAT ROCKIN' party we played at the FOUR SEASONS NEW YORK on NEW YEARS EVE 2014! The staff, as usual, was incredibly warm and welcoming. The room was gorgeous. From Sinatra, Buble, Swing to Stones, Jumpswing to Journey, Beatles to Bowie, Motown to Mercy by Duffy, Disco to Downtown, 80s, 90s, with a fun dash of contemporary hits from Adele, Avicii, Coldplay, Daft Punk, Pink and more. Everything we played was well-received by a great crowd including guests from Stamford, Ct. to Australia to Barcelona, Spain and beyond. They were in PARTY MODE! The Louis Roederer champagne was divine. There is nothing like being in our very own BIG APPLE at the greatest place for a TREMENDOUS PARTY for the 15th year. Thank you FOUR SEASONS for INVITING US ONCE AGAIN. We miss everyone already and looking forward to next time!