Jazz Timeline

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Normally a jazz band is hired for the evening wedding reception, after the wedding breakfast, but not always. Our jazz musicians have played before & after (and even during) the wedding ceremony, during the drinks reception and the meal (often during a meal a jazz solo or duo, or jazz trio would be appropriate.) So, it is entirely a matter of what you like and the kind of atmosphere you are wanting to create. Wedding days used to be very formal and structured, but in recent years, particularly with the increase in Civil Ceremonies and Partnerships what is important to the couple is paramount and traditional limitations are largely a thing of the past.

Jazz means something different to everyone. It covers a huge range of music and styles that have developed and split since the late 1800s to the present day. When someone asks us for a 'Jazz Band' we first have to discover what they have in their mind as 'Jazz'. That is why we let you listen to as many of our bands as possible on our web site, so that you can select the bands that play the style you like. We divide our bands into categories like jazz quartet so you can find the mid size band that is suitable for the majority of parties and wedding receptions; whereas jazz duosjazz pianists and jazz guitarists are particularly appropriate for dinners and corporate banquets and smaller weddings;  (Go to 'Search' then select 'Jazz' from the first drop down box.)

Because many of our bands cover a wide range of jazz and we are possibly limited in what we can let you hear by the recordings they happen to have made, it might be useful for you to read about the styles of jazz that our bands cover in our section on Jazz  Repertoire. Then brows through our bands  to find some groups that play your kind of music so that you can email us to get price and availability.


Jazz styles for Weddings, Parties & Events

Main Jazz Styles up to 1960

Jazz spans a wide and sometimes confusing range of music and styles. Perhaps this summary will help you determine the kind of jazz that you are most interested in.


Strictly speaking this is not a jazz style, but it is often thought of as one of the precursors of jazz.

  •  Ragtime dates from the latter half of the 19th Century.

  • The majority of rags were originally written as piano pieces, but many well-known pieces have been arranged for other instrument combinations.

  •  Ragtime is primarily a composed form. Unlike jazz it doesn’t contain improvisation, although many rag themes have subsequently been used for jazz improvisation.

  • They are exuberant in mood and are usually played at a steady speed.

  • Distinctive features include a bouncy, off-beat melody against a strong bass line.

  • The most famous composer of rags is Scott Joplin. He wrote more than 600 of these. His best- known pieces include The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag.

New Orleans Style

This occurred from 1910- 1930.

  • The most common instrumental line-up for the Neworleans style is: cornet/trumpet, trombone, clarinet, double bass/tuba, banjo/guitar, sometimes piano and drums.

  • The most distinctive feature is the inter-play between the front- line instruments (cornet/trumpet, trombone and clarinet). They all improvise at the same time (collective improvisation), creating a texture that is unique.

  • As a result of this, the music can sound strident, but it is always lively and up- beat.

  • A New Orleans piece will usually include some solos.

  • The most famous band- leader in this style is Louis Armstrong.

Dixieland Jazz

This dates from the same period as New Orleans jazz, and is similar in style.

  • The principle difference is the lack of solos. Most pieces are based on collective improvisation throughout.

  • Lively speeds are common.

Chicago Style

Again, this is similar to New Orleans jazz.

  • The whole ensemble will usually play at the beginning and end of a piece, with collective improvisation from the front- line. A succession of solos will occur in the middle.

  • Chicago jazz is usually more boisterous than New Orleans jazz.


 A completely new style that occurred during the 1930s.

  • Big bands became popular, with the 13-piece band being common.

  •  The standard instrumental line-up for a swing band is: 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, 4 reeds(usually saxophones), piano, guitar, double bass and drums.

  • The sound is distinctively rich and full, with characteristic inter-play between the brass and reed sections, who often share out the melodic work.

  •  Improvised solos are common.

  • At the time much of this music was used for dancing.

  • Famous band –leaders of the period include Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

  • Famous soloists include Lester Young and Benny Goodman.


This gradually appeared during the 1940s as a reaction against the increasing commercialism of Swing.

  •  Smaller ensembles were the norm, with a typical ensemble comprising: trumpet, saxophone, piano, double bass and drums.

  • Bebop harmony tends to consist of quite complex chords, and players improvise freely over these.

  • Improvisations are usually technically demanding, showing off the players command of their instrument, and they generally move a long way from the original theme of the piece (which will be played by the ensemble at the beginning and end of the piece).

  • Unlike Swing, this music is to be listened to and is not for dancing.

  • Famous band- leaders of the period include Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong (who spanned several periods of jazz) and Thelonious Monk.

Cool Jazz

This dates from the 1950s.

  • Band sizes at the time were flexible, but smaller ensembles were often more commercially viable.

  • The standard instrumentation of trumpet, trombone, saxophone, piano, double bass and drums remains the heart of a large ensemble, but there were also experiments with instruments such as the French horn, alto flute and bass clarinet to create special effects.

  • The dominant feature of the style is its calm, relaxed playing and warm sound.

  • Solos are common.

  • Some of the best- known musicians of this period include Gerry Mulligan and Miles Davis.

Hard Bop 

  • This is another style from the 1950s, and contrasts hugely with cool jazz.

  • The music is earthy and extrovert with prominent drumming.

  • It is usually lively, with a sense of driving forward.

  • Like Bebop, ensembles tend to be small,  with a typical comprising trumpet, saxophone, piano, double bass and drums

  • Famous musicians from this style include Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones and John Coltrane.

Jazz Fusion Rock

Jazz Fusion and Jazz Rock dates from the 1960

















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