COCKTAIL PIANO OR JAZZ PIANO
Nov 04, 2014 10:06 AM Back
You're having a classy event, perhaps a corporate holiday party or a cocktail hour for your wedding reception. You call up a company like mine and you tell the entertainment planner that you want a piano player to play background music during your cocktail hour, something "jazzy".

Most profession piano entertainers are able to play in the style of jazz to varying degrees, without actually being a legit jazz pianist. To many clients, Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble are jazz, and those are the melodies they want to hear. Maybe they want to hear some lite FM melodies sprinkled in. Other clients want to hear Thelonious Monk tunes, or a Bill Evans-esque interpretation of a classic standard. These clients would require a legitimate jazz trained pianist. Both styles are completely valid for classy cocktail music, and to be brutally honest, the majority of the guests will not know the difference unless it's pointed out to them.

From the musician's point of view, it takes much more training to achieve the status of a true jazz pianist, and as such, they get more respect in the music world. Even cocktail players that play "jazzy", or "in a jazz style" really have a limited jazz vocabulary and can't really "hang" with the straight up jazz crowd.

From the standpoint of a client looking for background music at their event, in my experience, it's usually not important to them whether they are hearing legitimate jazz improvisation, or a cocktaily (yes, I just said cocktaily) "jazzy" version of a melody. Just because it's not straight up jazz doesn't make it unsophisticated. I would dare say that the late and famous New York society cocktail pianist Bobby Short wasn't exactly a legit jazz pianist, yet the distinction was lost on the majority of his fans, and he was certainly considered extraordinarily sophisticated by most.

As for the pricing, with any professional entertainment you are paying for professionalism, experience, musicality, and a classy presentation that can float in the background, adding ambiance and being complimentary to party chatter. Whether it's "cocktail music" or true jazz, the cost is generally going to be the same.

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