They Rock All Night Long
Bands and D.J.'s who get the crowd on its feet.
Soul Street Band featuring Reggie Woods
Total Entertainment: 201-894-0055; totalentertainment.com
Just past midnight at one of Soul Street Band’s recent gigs, 300 people crowded the dance floor, kicking their feet up and singing—screaming, really. This wasn’t Soul Street’s wildest wedding, but it was a victory for bandleader and sax player Reggie Woods. The couple had warned him that their friends would be a “subdued crowd: they were older, sophisticated; they weren’t the dancing types.” And yet they were jiving to “Boogie Wonderland.” Soul Street, which played Billy Joel’s and Robert DeNiro’s nuptials, covers many genres, but “our Motown is authentic,” Woods says. Band members have opened for Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder, and performed with Ben E. King. Soul Street’s five singers do superb renditions of Motown classics—just pick one (from $18,500; book at least six months in advance).
Premiere Artist Group: 561-792-2177
GrandWizzard Theodore’s on the turntables doing backspins and needle-dropping blindfolded. This is what they did when hip-hop was still a revolution. Growing up in the Bronx in the early seventies, Theodore was part of rap’s inception and he has performed with Run-DMC. He did his first wedding in 1983 and has since done too many to count. You’d be hard-pressed to request something he doesn’t have—in his 30-plus years in music, he’s accumulated hundreds of thousands of records. His prices are unbelievably old-school, too (from $1,500; book at least one month in advance).
Richard “Cookie” Thomas
John Ragusa Music: 212-706-7227; johnragusamusic.com
This past summer, at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Richard “Cookie” Thomas sang Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest” as newlyweds danced. “I kept noticing a few of the bride’s relatives looking at me,” he says. “I asked, ‘Am I doing okay?’ They said, ‘We want some rumba music.’” Staying true to his Great American Songbook M.O., Thomas had his band speed up Rosemary Clooney’s ballad “Hey There” to rumba tempo. “The moment they heard that, they were out of their chairs dancing,” he says. Thomas can be booked with bands big or small, or as an accompaniment to any band (from $4,000 with piano, bass, and drums; book at least six months in advance).
Jazz and Standards
Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra
Wearing three-piece wool suits with fedoras in the winter, straw hats and spectator shoes in the summer, this dapper ensemble takes the retro spirit to a whole other level. Led by Michael Arenella, it plays toe-tapping Tin Pan Alley and swing-era tunes, along with songs by jazz greats like Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington. “A lot of times at weddings older folks end up feeling alienated, but all generations respond to the music we play,” says Arenella. The group can play as a trio or sextet (from $4,750; book at least six months in advance).
From the Winter 2008 New York Wedding Guide