There’s just nothing like a live band to bring energy to a special event, and this week’s interview is with Orlando Combo, a well known Melbourne band with a smooth jazz/rhythm & blues/soul/Motown sound. Playing at varied events from the AFL Grand Final to the Spring Racing Carnival and a weekly gig at Botanical Hotel in South Yarra, this band is everywhere – and most importantly versatile. At your wedding, you can choose from rhythm & blues during post ceremony drinks, jazz during dinner and then break out with some lively Pop classics to dance the night away – that’s the beauty of a hiring a live band – they can read the mood and tailor the evening to suit you. With loads of experience and polish, Orlando Combo is sure to add just the right note to your wedding entertainment.
How long has Orlando Combo been in existence?
Orlando Combo first formed in 1996 when the core 3 members met at the Victorian College of the Arts music school while studying the Bachelor of Music Performance course.
How did you all come together to form a band?
As like minded musicians we were drawn together and then a few performance opportunities arose and the band was officially up and running and hasn’t stopped since.
How is your band different from others?
For starters our musical genre makes us automatically a little different from a usual wedding band. We are not a ‘Top 40’ band or greatest hits type duo performing over pre recorded backing tracks so that makes us more of a ‘niche’ style wedding entertainment.
Our longevity as a consistent working band is unusual. We have been in constant operation since the mid 90’s so we feel this gives us great experience and synchronicity as an ensemble (being in our late 30’s certainly not over the hill though!)
Also stylistically we are very diverse and can cover a lot of moods throughout the duration of a wedding reception. We specialize in making a seamless transition from sophisticated Jazz to accessible dance floor Soul and Pop classics to appeal to a range of ages.
Another thing that distinguishes us from some other forms of wedding entertainment is that we are an actual single working band and not a music agency or franchise. We only take on one booking at a time. Some groups take multiple bookings for the same date all operating under the one band name, this is not how we operate. We are also not an agency so you will be dealing directly with the group’s bandleader/manager who will also be performing at your wedding.
As the bandleader, do you handle all enquiries and bookings?
Yes, each member brings there own specific skills to the group but as I am very organized I handle all of the customer enquiries from start to finish and then will also be there performing on the big day. This leaves no chance for miscommunication or errors.
How would you describe your music style?
In a word Jazz, but the more accurate description would be….. The genre is Jazz but more specifically the sound is a special blend of Swing/Rhythm & Blues/Bossa Nova/Soul/Motown and Rock & Roll. Inspiration and repertoire comes from the swing of Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, Great American Songbook standards and show tunes of Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble, smooth bossa nova of Antonio Carlos Jobim, the old school Rhythm & Blues and retro Rock & Roll party starters of the 1950s and 60s by Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Elvis and Chuck Berry and the dance floor soul and pop classics of Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and The Beatles (along with our own very hip take on a selection of current day hits).
Can you play any genre of music – for example jazz over dinner, and then rock and roll or current music for dancing? Does your music appeal to all ages?
From the smooth Jazz as wedding guests arrive for pre-dinner drinks to the background dinner music set, bridal waltz and lively dance brackets, Orlando Combo has the experience and professionalism to create an atmosphere of sophistication, fun, romance and joy. We specialize in making a seamless transition from sophisticated Jazz to accessible dance floor Soul and Pop classics to appeal to a range of ages. For brides who are looking for a group that can supply the style and class that only a Jazz combo can provide but are concerned it may be too laid back for later in the evening, then fear not ¨C Orlando Combo has earned a reputation for being the most danceable Jazz band in town.
– Ideal for creating a sophisticated atmosphere during food service while still being quiet enough for guests to enjoy their meals and conversation
– Live/Raw gig video for the extended Pop and Soul sets
Recently we have performed at many vintage or Great Gatsby/1920’s themed weddings and in this case Orlando Combo has a vast repertoire from the Jazz Age and can structure the night including our music and presentation around this theme
– ‘Great Gatsby’/1920’s style
There would be many classics in your repertoire but how do you decide as a band, on the more modern music you’d like to play?
We believe that at a wedding there are some mandatory current day hits that a good wedding band should still be able to play even if their repertoire is predominantly not Pop. With this in mind we have our own very hip take on a selection of current day hits like Happy, Moves Like Jagger, Uptown Funk, Valerie etc
Our repertoire is carefully selected to suit our instrumentation as we are a 100% live band – no backing tracks, synthesizers or cheesy-tired-typical wedding band material. Any current hits that come out featuring a horn section (trumpet/saxophone etc) are straight onto the Orlando Combo repertoire!
– ‘Happy’ Pharrell Williams – given the Orlando Combo treatment
I always stress to enquirers though that we are certainly not a Top 40 style cover band.
What extra services do you provide?
A question that arises on occasions from couples is…. ‘I would love my wedding to have the sound and style of a Jazz/Soul group but some of my guests will also want to dance to some Modern Pop/Club music as well as the Jazz/Soul band?’
In this situation clients can also provide CDs or an IPod/Laptop playlist with music of their choice which can be played through the band’s sound system either as background set break music or at high volume for an additional dance set when the group is on a set break later in the evening. This can be a way of covering all bases by catering for all your guests musical tastes without the additional cost of engaging a DJ when only a limited amount of DJ repertoire is required. The band’s PA is equivalent to a professional DJ’s system. This option is also ideal if a set of Greek/Italian/Indian/Jewish etc. cultural music is important for dancing but where a band is still appropriate for the majority of the function.
Orlando Combo provides all the necessary equipment for the band to perform. This includes high quality and compact amplifiers, recorded set-break background music, lighting and vocal PA (which can also be used by clients for speeches/announcements. We also provide appropriate recorded IPod/CD set break music for when the band is on a break).
Do you have showcases or a regular place where people can come and listen to you play?
We have public performance/viewing nights every Wednesday at Melbourne’s renowned Botanical Hotel in South Yarra where we have been weekly for the last 5 years.
We perform in the lounge where people can come down for some very fine food or drink, make a song request and sit back and chill out – entry is free, parking is easy and the mood is very relaxed.
We play our Lounge Jazz and swing material (think cruisey, background, dinner type music) rather than our Pop/Soul dancing repertoire at the Botanical due to the style of the venue. Enquirers can refer to our YouTube channel for Live/Raw gig videos for our dancing repertoire – www.youtube.com/orlandocombo
When a couple enquires with you, how do you inspire them to choose your band?
We provide as much unedited video footage of the band in action to give enquirers an accurate idea of our sound and make them aware that all of our videos are live recordings, we never use overdubs or samples to enhance our sound; whether it is in the studio or performing live we are a 100% live band. Some band promo videos are heavily edited and have studio recorded sound synced over the top of the video footage which is not a real indication of the band’s true live sound and level of musicianship. All of our videos are actual live recordings and are not edited in any way. We believe this gives the most honest representation of a how a band will actually sound at a wedding.
We also feel our longevity and extensive testimonials dating back many years reassures people that we offer professionalism and experience along with excellent musicianship. This proven track record of how Orlando Combo operates gives brides the peace of mind that they are booking one of the wedding industries most trusted ensembles.
Prompt and thorough correspondence via email and phone is also essential in establishing a sense of trust and reliability.
With all the advancement in musical technology and popularity of DJs and solo or duo musicians performing with recorded backing tracks we strongly believe that there is still no substitute for the unique atmosphere that can only be created by highly skilled musicians performing live. It is true there is some risk in booking live entertainment for a wedding as if it is the wrong band it can be a disaster and actually have a detrimental effect, but book the right band and guests will have a night that they will be raving about long into the future. This is something we emphasise in our marketing.
Also our long running weekly viewing nights are something we encourage couples to attend.
What packages can you offer the bridal couple?
Out standard package is based on a 5 hour wedding performance but this can vary depending on whether we provide ceremony or pre-dinner drinks music as well.
We also have a great ‘mobile/unplugged/acoustic’ set-up that we can use outside for pre-dinner drinks and canapes (or wedding ceremony) and then relocate to the main room for the reception and play as the usual band with vocals and amplifiers etc (if this is something brides are considering).
– ‘Outdoor – Acoustic/Unplugged’
From our compact acoustic Trio line-up for sophisticated background music through to our Quintet or Sextet for lively Swing and Soul dance material, we can alter our instrumentation and line-up to best suit a particular wedding.
We provide all the necessary equipment for the band to perform.
Who inspires you musically?
All of the original Jazz masters that created this style of music (Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra etc) and those that continue to carry the torch and keep the music alive bringing it to a whole new generation (Harry Connick Jr, Dianna Krall, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Bublé etc). Given that Jazz was Pop and Dance music of its time any artist that continues to keep the combination of melody and a strong sense of rhythm played by musicians on real instruments gives us inspiration.
Where are you based and do you travel interstate?
We are Melbourne based but perform all around rural Victoria and have travelled interstate and overseas for performances.
In your spare time, apart from practicing, do the band members have other talents/pursue other interests?
Living the life of a musician is fairly all encompassing but in between gigs and practice we all have young kids so that’s pretty much a full schedule!
What’s great about the Melbourne music scene?
Melbourne is renowned around Australia as the music capital with many musicians relocating here from interstate due to its flourishing music scene. There is always the challenge of live music venues remaining viable in inner Melbourne due to rising costs and noise restrictions but recent government legislation regarding venue noise complaints will hopefully help address this.
Thank you Lucas for sharing your story. To find out more about Orlando Combo visit the website.
Headshot and images courtesy of Orlando Combo.