[Dixielandjazz] Visual effects

LARRY'S Signs and Large Format Printing sign.guy at charter.net
Mon Oct 11 11:46:06 PDT 2004

Well there is always too much of a good(?) thing.  A case in point - guitar players using sound enhancing boxes has deteriorated into musical chaos and poor players trying to cover up bad technique.

Visual effects are something else.  The listening public, and I'm not talking about half the membership in your local Trad jazz club, has since the advent of movies and TV become incredibly visual.  No longer can a singer for example just stand there and sing like Jo Stafford and hundreds of others before 1970.  People want movement and flash.  Is Michael Jackson really good or does he have a lot of flash.  Flash doesn't make it with out the good part but the good part can't make it without the flash.

How many really great musicians are there out there that while technically proficient and wonderful musicians don't go anywhere.  I bet you know dozens.  It's the same with bands.  Now I can't moon walk and no one will ever want to see my belly button and I'm just too old to dance but there things I can do.

1. don't just stand there and play.  Move a little.  The band I play with most Saturday nights does the step kick when we play New York New York and some hand movements and all the horns bop their horns up and down on punch notes.  Glen Miller knew this.  Just watch the sax players in In The Mood and the Trombone players move their Hat Mutes on the doo wap parts.  Very Visual.  Unless you are dead you can move.  The crowd loves it.

2. Color sells.  If you must wear black do something.  Wear Mardi Gras beads. Get red garters for the sleeves.  We have Red Paisley vests.  By the way we get them from www.uniformalwearhouse.com for about $28 each.  They have about three dozen different vests in lots of sizes.  It's an inexpensive place to buy hats, cummerbunds, shirts etc. 

3. Flashy multicolored stands even if you do all head arrangements.  At least have a really good stand hanger banner to tell people who you are.

4. Get a singer who can sell a song and connect to the audience.  A good place to look is the local theatre groups.  I have tapped into this here and the bands that I work with have picked up three singers from there and my singer is also in the theatre groups.  The only thing that is a problem is that they bail when there is a show and they have a part.  These people can sell a tune because of the stage presence that they develop.  It doesn't hurt when you are selling the band to tell people what shows your singer has been in.  It's a lot more impressive than someone who hasn't.

One tip about female singers.  If they are young and or pregnant.  Stay away from them.  Young women tend to be really flaky, won't know tunes,  think they are worth more than they are and are not very professional.  One, young, good looking, very good singer  accepted a drink from a patron and came on stage with it even though the casino had absolute rules about drinking.  The guys in the overhead room picked it up on their cameras and the band was fired on the spot.  The band leader should have been more observant but there was no excuse she knew the rules.   If she is married ( involved) and good looking the chances are that their husbands (boyfriends) will get uncomfortable with her singing with the band.  A lot of work down the drain.  Children complicate the problem too.  Runny noses take precedence over your band and that's a fact.  Pregnant is the worst.  I had a fantastic singer one time and no one objected when she came up pregnant and we let her keep singing with the band.  the clients were really nice about it.  They understood  etc etc.  BUT! when people would come to see us we didn't get hired and we spent the next year rebuilding the momentum.  Once you lose it it's hard to get it back.  My advice is to find a more mature woman who needs the bucks or someone who can't have kids.  I guess I'm describing a 30 year old Lesbian with too many credit cards.  Go figure.

I had a commanding officer in the AF that said that people hear with their eyes.  That's really true.  We had to be sharper than the other troops and the regulations concerning dress were upheld to a very high standard and is today in the USAF Bands.  People remember what they see.

I ran into a Trad band yesterday at a concert that I was playing.  They had performed earlier.  I though their sound was OK but their vests were black and brown.  The only place their band name was shown was on the bass drum and when I asked for a card the banjo player tore off a piece of paper and wrote their web address on it.  By the way it was wrong.  Even if I wanted those guys I couldn't contact them.

Music today isn't enough. Don't ignore the flash and visual part of music.  Just look at who's popular today - it's those who have videos out.  Can you remember the last band that just stood there and had a hit.  My vote is Dave Brubeck in the early 60's.  Adapt or die and for heaven's sake get and carry business cards that don't have old telephone numbers and grocery lists scratched on the back.


More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list