When it comes to wedding entertainment, there are so many important ingredients – energy, experience in knowing how to read a crowd and having the ability to adapt, professionalism, organisational skills, passion… Ultimately, it’s a big decision for bridal couples. One that requires lots of research, as well as time spent asking vendors questions to determine if they’re the right fit. After quizzing Lucas Evans of Melbourne band Orlando Combo for today’s What Would They Know? post, I instantly felt he knew his stuff. And the band has the track record to prove it. They’re a super popular pick for weddings (having played at over 500 of them!) and also for major events around Melbourne like the Australian Open, Spring Fashion Week and the Melbourne Cup. Orlando Combo is definitely a band who has all the key ingredients. But don’t take my word for it; Lucas does a much better job at explaining all this below!

Tell us about Orlando Combo…
Orlando Combo provides the genuine live jazz experience for venues, festivals and wedding/corporate events.

The genre is jazz but more specifically the sound is a special blend of swing/rhythm and blues/bossa nova/lounge/Motown/boogaloo and soul.

Inspiration and repertoire comes from:

  • The swing of Louis Armstrong
  • The big band era and the roaring jazz of the 1920s ‘Great Gatsby’ period
  • The cool sounds of Miles Davis and the ‘Blue Note’ label
  • ‘Great American Songbook’ standards and show tunes of Frank Sinatra
  • Nat King Cole and Michael Bublé
  • Smooth bossa nova sounds of Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • The old school rhythm and blues and retro rock and roll party starters of the 1950s and 60s by Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Elvis and Chuck Berry
  • The dance floor soul classics of Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and The Beatles etc

Image by Jakub Fabijański Photography

How did Orlando Combo start and what has it become since then?
Orlando Combo first formed in 1996 when the musically likeminded members met at the Victorian College of the Arts (University of Melbourne) whilst completing a BA in music performance.

Through the experience gained from over 2000 performances (including 500+ weddings) the Combo has gone on to become one of Melbourne’s busiest and best working bands, offering professionalism, reliability and outstanding musicianship.

We perform regularly at all major Melbourne events including the Australian Tennis Open, AFL Grand Final, Australian Grand Prix and Melbourne Cup at Flemington. Wedding performances are also a specialty.

With weddings, do you only play at receptions or do you do ceremonies as well?
We can perform at both the ceremony and reception.

On request, Orlando Combo can also use an ‘acoustic/mobile’ set up that is perfect for a pre-dinner drinks set as guests arrive (either outdoors or in a foyer) or is also ideal for wedding ceremony music. We can work in with the celebrant to enhance the atmosphere by entertaining your guests as they arrive, playing for the bride/groom arrival/processional, during the break for the signing of the register, and then again at the end for the recessional. We can then move inside for the reception.

Why is jazz music great for a wedding?
Jazz music has a very wide appeal to a range of ages and creates a very festive atmosphere.

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 on a couple’s most important day. We specialise in making a seamless transition from sophisticated jazz to accessible dance floor swing, soul and rock and roll classics (if required) to appeal to a range of ages.

You’re the band’s manager and drummer. Do bridal couples chat to you when booking? What’s the process?
As the co-founder and bandleader/manager of Orlando Combo, I am always available to chat to couples regarding their wedding band research. Should they decide to place a booking with us, I am the person they will be dealing with from start to finish and who will also be performing at their wedding to make sure everything runs perfectly on the big night.  This leaves no chance for miscommunication or errors.

To confirm a booking, we request a deposit. The booking is tentative until the deposit is received, at which point the date is 100% locked in.

I always make phone contact two weeks before a wedding to go over all of the finer details but am always available anytime via phone or email to answer any questions as they arise.

What kind of input do couples have in the set list?
Couples can either make specific selections from our extensive repertoire list or leave it up to us as we are experts at reading the room and atmosphere and playing accordingly.

What songs get wedding guests out of their chairs and onto the dance floor?
Usually, the first dance is the best cue to then open the dance floor to all the guests.

We specialise in making a seamless transition from sophisticated jazz to accessible dance floor soul classics to appeal to a range of ages. If you 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 – Orlando Combo has earned a reputation for being the most danceable jazz band in town.

Do you take requests on the night? What if guests request top 40 hits?
The focus of Orlando Combo is real instruments played live by highly skilled musicians – no electronics, samples, loops, backing tracks, drum machines or gadgetry. This means that we are certainly not a ‘Top 40’ style cover band.

To address this, we tell clients they can also provide an iPod/laptop with playlists with music of their choice that 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 engaging a DJ for hundreds of dollars when only a limited amount of DJ repertoire is required. The band’s state-of-the-art PA is equivalent to a professional DJ’s system. This option is also ideal if a set of cultural music is important for dancing but where a band is still appropriate for the majority of the function.

Have you noticed if your band plays at a particular style of wedding more than others?
Our genre is certainly in the niche category, so we tend to do weddings where the couple are after something a little different and wanting a sophisticated classy atmosphere, but one where guests can still unwind, have a good time and a dance later in the evening while still remaining fairly civilised!

Do you work closely with any wedding venues in particular?
We are booked directly by the couple but there are a number of Melbourne/Victorian venues that we are on the preferred supplier list for from previous successful performances.

What are some of your favourite wedding venues to play at and why?
We often perform at Stones of the Yarra Valley and love playing there, in either the larger space (‘The Barn’) or their more intimate space (‘The Stables’) where we tend to use our smaller line-up such as the trio or quartet. They also have a fantastic chapel on site with amazing acoustics and a grand piano.

We also perform often at Crown Casino where many of the rooms are well suited to live band performance, including stages and in-house audio technicians.

Other amazing venues are The Lakehouse, which is great to do as a road trip up to Daylesford and enjoy the atmosphere and amazing hospitality and food. Also, Quat Quatta and Rippon Lea Estate have fantastic ballrooms that are perfectly suited to the sophisticated genre and style of live jazz music.

You’re Melbourne based, but would you travel out of state or even overseas for a wedding?
The majority of our work is in Melbourne but we travel regularly to rural Victoria (especially winery regions of the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula) and have performed interstate for a wedding in NSW. We have performed overseas but not yet for a wedding – open to invitations, preferably tropical! Hehe.

What do you love about playing weddings?
Weddings are such a joyous occasion and we love the challenge of playing to such a diverse range of ages and people with various musical tastes, by getting them on-side and giving everybody a fantastic and unforgettable night that reflects well on the couple as one of their chosen suppliers.

Any memorable moments from playing weddings you can share?
So many over the years. It’s always a highlight when someone from the family or bridal party join us for a special song dedicated to the couple, but it is even more special when it’s either the bride or groom themselves. At a recent wedding at the Melbourne Museum, a bride who was also a saxophonist joined us for a mini-concert on saxophone in her wedding dress and all. The guests absolutely loved it!

Middle image by Free the Bird

Best testimonial you’ve ever received?
We had the pleasure of performing in Vietnam for a six-month performance contract, six nights a week at the Hotel Sofitel. It was a great experience. The general manager had vast experience dealing with various bands from all over the world so we were very pleased when he gave us a written testimonial:

“We strongly recommend the Orlando Combo.”
Yours sincerely,

Jacques Serpollier
General Manager
Hotel Sofitel Saigon

You have a BA in Music Performance. How has that helped you in running and playing in Orlando Combo?
The BA in Music Performance was certainly fundamental to my musical development and probably most importantly for meeting fellow musicians (who I still perform with). The running of the band probably not so much as it was a performance focussed course – that comes more from just learning over the years and being highly organised and wanting to provide great service to the wedding industry.

When you’re not managing and playing in the band, where would we find you?
Practising! A bit boring but being a musician is all-encompassing. I also have young children so that is a big focus for me too.

And besides jazz, what kind of music do you like to listen to?
As I play jazz all the time I don’t listen to it as much anymore (I did immerse myself in jazz for many years). I listen to all genres from blues to soul, rock and roll, and am now being exposed to a lot of classical repertoire through my son who is learning piano. Great music is great music – across all genres.

Thank you Lucas for sharing Orlando Combo’s story with us. You guys are total professionals, and what an awesome energy you bring to any wedding or event! For more information on the band and their wedding performances, head on over to Orlando Combo website.

Photos and headshot via Orlando Combo.