Can Jazz Trios play ‘other’ styles of music?

Traditionally, Jazz Trios play…well, Jazz.  They might add some light pop, easy listening…but given the instrumentation of a typical Jazz Trio (be it Guitar, Upright Bass, Sax or Keyboards, Upright Bass, Female Vocal, to name a couple), the Trio will generally play the music appropriate for the instrumentation, the event, and the client’s requested ambiance (usually ‘background’ music).

However, that isn’t to say there aren’t exceptions…!!  :)

A perfect example is the Robin Kelly Jazz Trio (…yes, my Trio…).  With the instrumentation of Keyboards, Upright Bass, and Female Vocals, we were hired to play at a corporate awards dinner for the Council of Academic Programs last Thursday evening at the Newport Beach Marriott.   Don French (Keyboards), Dave Eastly (Upright Bass) and I were ready to play Jazz Favorites (i.e., It Had to Be You, My Funny Valentine, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Route 66…you get the idea).  The evening started off just as we expected – we played nice background music while guests mingled and socialized following their Awards Presentation.

About 45 minutes in to our 3-hour playing time, things started to evolve…people started to dance a little (though there was no dance floor), they started pulling chairs around and sitting in theater formation to ‘watch’ the Trio…and then the requests started coming in…

“Play some R&B!”

“Do you know any 80’s?”

“How about Nora Jones?”

“Can you do I Will Survive?”

Well, hmmm…let’s see…Disco…with Keyboards, Upright Bass…no drum machine…I didn’t even have a tambourine!

As always, it’s our aim to please, so with the good humor and terrific talents of Don and Dave we played the guest’s requests to the best of our ability.  Dave added his vocals and we sang back-up vocals for each other.  During a break, Don hooked up a vocal mic so he could add his vocal talents to the mix.  Then, to my great amazement and delight, during that same break Dave found a ‘Drum Machine’ app on his mobile phone.  He and Don hooked up his phone to Don’s keyboards to amplify the sound…and for our last set, we played to a mobile phone app Drum Machine!!  Now, this Drum Machine had only basic types of rhythms to choose from, at whatever tempo was set at the factory.  So, it was…find a rhythm/beat/tempo we liked, listen to it for a few seconds, think of what song might go well with it…then we were off and running!

Robin Kelly Jazz Trio

Robin Kelly Jazz Trio

The crowd loved it!  They continued to dance and sing along, and shout out more requests.  We had a ball!

Thanks again to the exceptional talents of Don & Dave, The Robin Kelly Jazz Trio was able to change hats and accommodate the requests of the guests.  Frances Laven, Executive Director of C.A.P., our Client representative, was very appreciative, and acknowledged that the crowd had taken us down a different road than originally intended.  I just smiled…and encouraged her to hire a full dance band next year!  :)

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4 Comments on “Can Jazz Trios play ‘other’ styles of music?”

  1. Alison E. Says:

    You go, Girl!!! What a fabulous save, doable only by REALLY talented talents like you and your professional colleagues! You never flinched; just provided the peerless customer service that was unexpectedly expected from you! Wow! I doubt other trios, whether in So Cal, SF, or NYC, could have done what you did. Way to go! I bet your clients loved you!

  2. Dave E. Says:

    What a fun gig! The highlight for me was playing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and Don playing the guitar solo on piano. Sounded great Robin! Let’s do it again soon!
    Dave E


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