16 April 2013


It is hard to understand why anybody would want to be a leader or manager of a traditional jazz band. I can think of eleven tricky and demanding things they have to do, usually for a negligible financial reward. They must:

1. recruit a team of good musicians who can be relied upon both to play and behave well and also to turn up punctually for gigs.

2. have considerable man-management skills, both in dealings with customers and with members of the band.

3. spend time and money on publicity, advertising and band promotion.

4. seek and chase after all possible offers of gigs.

5. negotiate terms with bookers.

6. cajole musicians into attending rehearsals; and cajole musicians into playing some gigs for almost nothing or for just one free drink.

7. communicate well, so that all the musicians know exactly where and when the gigs will take place.

8. decide on and establish policies for such things as band costume and repertoire.

9. devise play-lists for performances.

10. write out chord charts or music for musicians who may need them.

11. handle the finances of the band, and obtain the agreed fee from the booker (not always easy) and pay the musicians.

On top of all this, it helps if the leader has a strong and pleasant personality and can use this in communicating with audiences.

Despite all these demands, there are - thank goodness - plenty of people who have set themselves up as band-leaders and obviously enjoy the work.

The point I want to make today is this. I think we should all give strong support to our band-leaders. Respect them for all the hard work they do to keep the music alive.

On very rare occasions, I have heard of a musician criticising or arguing with his leader. In my opinion, this is a mean thing to do.

If a musician would prefer to do things differently, he should try setting up his own band; then he would discover how hard it is to be a Leader.