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Shannon Labrie / Blog

Wynton Marsalis

I wish this was a story about how I met Wynton Marsalis in a basement down in New Orleans and how we had a few drinks together. But … it isn’t. There’s a basement and a drink in the story, but I wasn’t with Marsalas in person and we weren’t in New Orleans. I was playing a club called the “Rudyard Kipling, which is downstairs, hidden away from the rest of the city in Louisville, Kentucky. There’s room for about forty people. You walk through the door and down the stairs and you see an old piano, some books thrown about, lots of old pictures, and elephants. Yes. Elephants. The tables are checkered and crammed together; the bar is small and made of old wood. This is what I’d call a classy joint … a place where musicians can feel the good vibes as they settle into their corner to play; the kind of place that makes songs want to relax and feel out each note. We had a few odds stacked against us for our show selling out. First, Ed Sheeran had sold out his show. Next, there was a winter advisory. Lastly, it was a Tuesday night. Not the greatest set-up for a full house. It didn’t matter. We started our first song with three people and we ended the show with eight. We doubled our audience! In business, we’d look good on paper ;-). I wasn’t so concerned with that, though. The place was cool and we were feeling the mood. After our third song of the set, the bartender yelled across a table and said, “You guys are amazing. Did you know that Wynton Marsalis played here? You are in good company!” With that, she brought me some whiskey and I started to play my piano. I couldn’t help but feel Marsala’s presence in that room brush across my hands. The room was small, and there weren’t many people there, but the people who were there made everything all right. They started dancing and we started jammin’. We all start somewhere, and I’m glad I got to start with eight classy Louisville locals and some good vibes left by Wynton Marsalis.