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Restaurant jazz gig help from the vets?


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So after we won the Battle of the Bands, the band's a bit left in the dust. We've decided on a direction to go, Phish type jams, but we're a bit lost on what we should be doing immediately.


As we build up our repetoire of jams (which will be songs after our singer gets the recordings), we've been really intrigued by doing some restaurant jazz gigs. However, I have not the first idea about the basics of this, so I was wondering if any of you vets could go into a bit of detail on how the requirements of jazz gigs go?


In particular, what are the requirements of restaurant jazz gigs? How many songs? Are there a lot of requests? What's the average pay? A lot of gigs in a city like St Louis?


Also, if we'd add just one horn/brass, what instrument would it be? Since I'm at a high school, I bet I'd be able to find someone to do it.


Thanks for the help!

A much appreciated LadY

In Skynyrd We Trust
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I haven't played these types, but I'd guess that they're "wall paper gigs" if you're playing while people are eating. Keep the volume so people can talk to each other while you're playing. In a situation like this you're not the attraction, you're the jukebox. You may or may not get requests, so you probably should have a good handle on the standards. The pay sucks in St. Louis (lots of bands) so I'd try the outlying area first. For one horn, I'd say Sax, if you can't find a sarusaphone player. Now that I think about it, I don't know why a restaurant wouldn't hire a piano player instead of a band for that kind of gig. Have you tried the Soulard district or LaClede area?





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Resturant jazz gigs?


Few and far between. Pay, between $15 and $35 per man, for a 3 hour gig in 3 sets with 15 minute breaks. Plus food. (Actually, the last one I did paid more like $60 per man.) Sometimes you play only to split the tip jar.


You have to have dozens of tunes memorized, and a real book collection numbering at least 300 standards. You need to have 2-3 very competent jazz soloists that are "showy."


A minimum would be: Bass, Rhythm (either piano or guitar) and Lead (some kind of horn, most likely.) Vocalist is not necessary, and if you use one, they better be smooth as silk and jazz literate.


In my experience you can count on approximately 2 requests per gig. You will have one of those requests in a fake book; the other one you will have to turn down.


If your band is hot as hell and playing up a storm, you might get a tiny scattering of applause from a table or two. However, you are for the most part wallpaper.


There will be one jazz literate customer who will camp out and smoke close to the stage. On breaks, he'll walk over and talk to you about some obscure session player he is in love with, and convince you that you know nothing about jazz history compared to him.


Take a battery operated stand light. Trust me.


The camaraderie of the band members is the best part of this type of gig.


If you've never done this type of music before, you might want to start real small. People have been known to throw stuff at people who pretend to play jazz.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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No, we've just come up with the idea in the last week. We'll worry a bit more about the gigs later. I'm more worried about familiarizing myself the jazz band idea so we know what we'd be getting into. Again, we're high school students, so 15-20 bucks an hour each is more than adequate.
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I have a regular (once or twice an month) restaurant gig which I perform as a solo act (only bass and loops) and really dig quite a bit.

Like a lot of these types of gigs it is low pay...that is, in my case, a tip jar (I put two or three of them out around the the restaurant and the main exit) and a free meal. I do alright, tho....from $75 to $150 a night (again, I do this solo, and the gig is close to home...so all in all it is a pretty easy and sweet gig!).


Volume is a MAJOR concern. Most, if not all, of the "audience" are not there for you at all. They are there for themselves (or their company for the meal). If you play over the conversations...you are killing the gig. Yes, you are the equivilent of sonic wallpaper.


Of, course, this also allows you a bit of creative freedom. Fo my gig, I don't take breaks and often segue tunes so as to create a very long seamless performance (and the venue provides great practice for this). I combine originals with standards...often putting quotes from standards into originals....or using quotes from one tune in a different tune. And I do requests (at least as best I can)...which again is a great challenge and certainly puts your talents on the block.


People do often times politlely clap....but all too often they ignore the performance. I find that if I can get them bobbing their heads slightly as they engage intheir dinner dialogues, or notice anyone tapping their feet (and of course when they put down the knioves and forks to applaud you know you've get'em) then I know I am doing something right.


Since I use loops, I can engage in conversations with the audience (and I do have a vocal mic set up for chatter if the audience seems into that sort of thing...mostly they want background music...so again choose your material wisely!)


I use a very small amp (AI Contra with extension cab) which has a small footprint, sounds good at low volumes etc. No big pedal boards or 4x10s! I bring a folding keybrd bench to sit on (much better to at your audience's level of sight...)


My advice: learn some tunes and develop your repetoire. Practice playing, with dynamics, at a level no louder than a conversation. Dress well, run a smooth show and pay attention to the crowd.

It may not pay great, but these kinda gigs can teach you volumes about running a "bigger" show and keeping your sound together.


Good luck.


Oh....as a supplement I sell quite a few CDs at these gigs. And, I even was asked once by one of the patrons if I was interested in scoring a TV series they were producing (they REALLY liked my music). Yes, I did the show. It payed a lot more than the restaurant gig (payed for a brand new car, in fact)...but it was the the restaurant gig which put that in my lap......



...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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I used to do this with a guitarist and a sax player - there is your jazz horn in my opinion.

If any of your players need their ego stroked you will be in trouble as you will go largely ignored. If you're lucky you get fed and paid and maybe even tipped.


Dave is right - the commraderie is the best part.

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76


I have nothing nice to say so . . .


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I do a restaurant gig once a month with one of my bands, I guess we're in the enviable position of being paid reasonably well to play original music. I have to agree though, that we are expected to be quieter which is sometimes difficult to maintain - you have to kind of derive your enjoyment from each other than any form of interaction from the audience. The tips jar idea is a good one though, I might try that.
Now theres three of you in a band, youre like a proper band. Youre like the policemen.
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I've had the luxury of playing a restaurant gig where we were a bit more of an "attraction" because we were doing Italian folk songs at an Italian restaurant. By 9 or 9:30, people have some wine in their blood and are feeling good and Italian-Americans can be a fun-loving and boisterous group. It helped that we actually had about a dozen "fans" of the band show up and injected some energy into things.


By the end our accordionist was weaving through the crowd, and diners were standing up to join him in impromptu (and off-key and oddly-metered) renditions of That's Amore, O Solo Mio, and Funiculi, Funicula.


That, however, is the exception to the rule.

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A bar near a college here has an open jam jazz night. The jazz studies students come out and play for hours. Nobody gets paid, but everybody has a great time. They mostly play from a fake book.


In high school the school jazz band was invited to play at a private outdoor event. If any money changed hands I'm sure it was donated to the band program.


As a high school student I was recruited to play in an ensemble for my classmate's father, a jazz trumpeter. It was a house party and I think I was fed, but not paid.


As a college student I played in a "jazz" trio (Claude Bolling) for a cultural show. Pay: nada (but I got to play on a cool stage).


[see a trend yet? ;) ]


In grade school, our jazz/stage band played a concert at a local park. We were given $50, but since it was the school band we weren't allowed to take the money, so the band parents used it to fund a picnic for the band. (The same band played at a local mall for free.)


I can't remember any restaurants I've been to that had a jazz ensemble, unless it was more of a lounge that featured the music. (And those players are always top notch. Charleston, SC and New Orleans are more likely to feature jazz.) Mostly I've seen the solo acts, either piano or guitar. That's not to say it can't be done, but I think Max has the right idea in going it alone. (This of course usually means the bass player is screwed, but again Max gives us hope.)


Now, I've seen high school string quartets play at scads of functions/dinners/parties/etc. I don't see why a small jazz combo couldn't do the same. Just remember: if you bring a drummer, just bring a minimal jazz set and have him/her play with brushes or a light touch. People will probably expect to see you behind an URB (wasn't there a thread on that a while back?), so if you're an EBG-only guy, be prepared to lose a few gigs up front.


So I'd say don't limit yourself to just restaurants. Start looking for other opportunities as you build your set list; there may be places that don't need you to play three full sets. Be patient; it may take a while before offers come in. (Hopefully your combo will still be intact when that happens. ;) )

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I tell ya, it's tough following Dave and Max when they've covered 95% of what you were going to say. I hope my puny 5% may only add to that:


-public relations: restaurant owners flock together and share notes on acts, so if you blow off one owner/booking agent you're going to have to find a comparative gig somewhere in the next state. be on your best behavior and offer to listen to any complaints, no matter how minor, from anyone at the venue. Good PR will often sidetrack a potential deal-breaker if someone accidentaly commits a no-no.


-apparel: look presentable (not looking "well-groomed" in a place where food is served is an obvious turn-off but one often missed by many musicians), for which you should get the owner's opinion of that a few nights before your debut engagement.


-requests: I made an extra $100 one night because I listened to a drunken patron requesting my rock band to play two Sinatra songs and got together with the rhythm section (who also got their $100 each) to do it. We didn't have a fake book handy but my guitarist was a Berklee graduate and I'm not too much of a slouch when it comes to kamikaze transcriptions, so we pulled it off in 15 minutes during our break and he had the additional treat of singing the vocals to his posse. Need I say more?

Saying "no" is easy, but it could cost ya in the long run. :wave:


PS: incidentally, these are good scenarios to use in screening potential musicians for a band. I'll give extra points to a mediocre player with a positive and professional attitude, because that person's gonna make his customers happy. Concersely, I'm not into teaching someone why ripped jeans and dirty sneakers won't do playing a high-end restaurant or why he doesn't need to play a 5-minute solo on every song.

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I used to play weekly (Thursday nights) at the bar/lounge area in a little Italian restaurant at a Holiday Inn in Lakeland. It was a small jazz combo. Bass, drums, guitar, trumpet and occationally we'd bring in another horn, singer or once a friend who played some congas/bongos/vibes. We got $20 or $30 plus tips if I remember right. Typically got $15-20/person/night. It was gas money while I was living on campus. Nice/dressy black attire or white shirt with black vest.


Because we were in the lounge rather than the main part of the restaurant we got a bit more attention that we would have otherwise. We got a very few requests and those came from drunk old guys at the bar wanting to hear Johnny B Goode or something. We didn't have a fakebook (I would've rather used one) but we used binders full of arrangements the band leader (trumpet player) had put together.


It was a blast and Dave is right that the camaraderie is the best part. That and the experience you get from playing regularly in front of an audience (regardless of their disintrest) and growing with a set group of other musicians.


Our group was actually visited by the owners of the restaurant chain. A couple guys from Miami who own several other (much nicer and more expensive) restaurants because the wife of one of them managed our restaurant and she loved us. They wanted to set us up to play once a month at one of their new ritzy places in Miami. All expenses paid and set us up for that one weekend a month at a timeshare they own on the beach. Unfortunately, our band leader (the trumpet player) ran into some financial trouble right then and had to move back with his parents out of state and it all fell apart. Sucks.


Anyway, Max is right...it's a great kind of gig for networking and having other gigs fall into your lap.

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