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A Wedding Story (of a different kind)


I played the best wedding ever this past weekend.

Yes, Believe it or not, I play a lot of weddings. Fans get a hold of me, I charge fair but still kinda steep prices, and I play songs at the ceremony, a Vance Show for the cocktail hour, something with the band, etc. Mostly my own stuff, but sure, I’ll do a whole cocktail hour of jazz standards. I’ve even rewritten my own tunes a teeny bit to fit.

This past weekend’s wedding was exceptional. The band was a French jazz band ie they played French Standards jazz style amongst other stuff. The band was made up of a Korean dude on bass, Brazilian guy on guitar, French lady lead singer, Swiss reed player, French drummer, another singer pianist lady from Brooklyn. Then there was me. That was some United Nations shite right there, right? And they were *slamming*. Period. Aside form the standards, the singer at the piano sang like Mariah Carey and played like McCoy Tyner. The other woman singer sounded like a cross between Carmen McCrae and Blossom Dearie - and if you don’t know of either of those chanteuses, get thee to and do ye jazz vocal homework..

But the bride and groom were something. Both about 25-30. She’s a long, sweeping-eyed beauty, Brittany, from CT. He was the man she’d met back in college, Justen, from Central PA. He’s half-black, stunning, and looks exactly like my nephew. Exactly. Whose name is Justin. When I met him my knees went weak. So if the band was the United Nations, the wedding party looked like a friggin Benneton/Coke Teach The World To Sing commercial.

The ceremony. Officiated by their ex-college roommate who did the online justice thing just for them. Justen’s mom, this stunning black lady Denise, read Neruda. Brittany’s dad read Frost. Each was jaw-droppingly appropriate and emotionally resounding. Not a dry eye.

I played a few mid ceremony songs - Highrise, When *Justen* Falls In Love, and Witness To Joy (Old, old stuff - I had to relearn that last one…), then the staff cleared the room. Everyone retired to raw bar cocktails in the other room while this main room was reset for dinner. The band was setting up in this recently cleared room and soundchecking, and this intrepid couple escaped the raw bar to quietly dance - just the 2 of them, no one else around but 2 waiters and me packing up from the ceremony - to the soundcheck, Bill Withers’ Lovely Day. Not some smooshy drunk slow-dance dance either. She hoisted the gown and they was dancing.

Dinner was otherworldly. The veggie option was portobello on chevre on polenta with green beans on the side. With some Hootie McTootie Hopscotch Bitter Berry reduction. Terrific. Mouthgasm.

Then, as the band was playing and people were dancing every which way, and as I was about to sing a few more songs and be done, the bride’s mom came up to me and told me this:

“Vance, we're so glad you’re here. So is Brittany. You know, of course, my husband and I have followed you for years. As far back as First Night Keene NH. That was over twenty years ago. So you must now know this. That child, at 8 years old, told me as we left the Keene NH Hall that night where you’d just played, ‘Mama if ever I get married, I want Vance Gilbert to play at my wedding’. I just though you should know how much you mean to everyone in our family”.

I pretty much lost it right then and there over dessert.

Then I had to play 5 more tunes. I could barely get that part done, thanks Brittany’s Mom. They didn’t mind. Then the band again. Justen’s mom just killed Stand By Me. It was time for me to make up for the *meh* 5 song mid-dessert set. The bride turns out to be a pretty good disco swing dancer. How do I know? I taught it in college. We cleared the floor, black people/great dancers stereotype be damned. I still got it, even if I do look like a fat brown Gene Kelly. Or an oversized Nicholas Brother. (Google the Nicholas Brothers…more homework for you..)

Thanks Bruce & Jeanette, Denise and Charles. Those kids’ marriage will easily last as long as yours, as they are at very least the people that your are. Lessee... 25 plus or minus more years till their kids get married I’ll be in my early 80’s…Gimmie a call, Brittany…I have my calendar right here... and a heart spilling over with hope for us all.