Wrembel Rambles With Django Jangles

For the second time this year, The Nelson Odeon, which is located at 4035 Nelson Road, Nelson, will be welcoming French instrumentalist Stephane Wrembel back inside its cozy quarters for the second time this year. The internationally known guitarist is becoming more than just a familiar face, but instead a staple in this quaint central New York venue. Both Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, shows begin at 8 p.m.

Photo by J. Elon

“I’m so glad to be back. I really love Jeff (Schoenfeld) and The Nelson Odeon,” he said in a recent phone conversation this past Friday afternoon. The husband and father of two children spoke with a soundtrack of his laughing children in the background.

Earlier this year, the double album, The Django Experiment I and II, which pays homage to gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt was released. Both can be purchased separately. Other similar artists’ compositions and Wrembel’s own can be strung through the extensive track listing.

Due to popularity and his desire to have Reinhardt’s spirit and passion live on, Wrembel said he’ll be releasing more experiments in the upcoming years. The third album of the Django Experiment series will be released Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. Every year, he said, there will be a new album released that day.

The significance? Reinhardt was born on Jan. 23, 1910.

“Django is the grandmaster of guitar. I’m from Fontainebleau (France), where he was based,” said Wrembel in an interview earlier this year (an article written for Syracuse New Times). “When I became serious about playing the guitar, there was a moment where I knew I had to play some Django. It was a given, something I felt I had to do.”

Wrembel’s style is notable: worldly, intricate and musically articulate. His fingers quickly dance along the neck of the guitar, hopping fret-to-fret as they quickly hit the notes to define the playing style of gypsy jazz. Of course, the guitarist often sits comfortably in his chair while making the complex compositions look easily executed — while smiling.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, his “Bistro Fada” can be heard as the theme for Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris. His trio has also contributed to the filmmaker’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona soundtrack with “Big Brother.”

Patrons might be able to hear both songs among other favorite originals on Saturday, Oct. 21, when he and his band will play his personal repertoire. The first evening, Friday, Oct. 20, will feature songs by Reinhardt and artists alike. General admission tickets are $25 each night, or $40 for both. Tickets can be ordered online at nelsonodeon.com or by calling (315) 655-9193.

“The shows will be complimentary of each other. That’s the beauty of it,” he said. “It’s going to be amazing.”

An additive Wrembel will be offering again is a workshop, which will take place on Saturday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The cost for the workshop is $75, but The Nelson Odeon is offering a special $90 combination ticket, which includes both performances and the workshop. The workshop will explore the style of Reinhardt, and the session will be open to any and all musicians of all skill levels.

Everyone can expect to get something out of the workshop. There is always something you need as a musician, he said. “Maybe it’s a phrase, one thing or maybe the whole thing is for you. You may know what that thing is or you might not.”

He added that it’s going to be much more than a college class where he sits down and talks about how improvising over chords.

Wrembel and participants are going to take a close look at “Together we’re going to take a look at the different aspects of Reinhardt’s music and the traditional gypsy techniques.” If it wasn’t for the gypsies, the classic guitarist would never been handed down that inspiration or had the skillset to practice this particular aptitude.

Wrembel went on to say that it’s more than sitting position or how to place or hold your hand. If you don’t have the technique, then playing that style is much more difficult. Also, as a word of advice, he said that you have to allow the music to flow.

But teaching how to play like Reinhardt is a different story. “Django is a little bit of a different problem. He plays at a higher calibre than anyone else. We haven’t figured it out yet,” said the French musician.

“There is a mystery behind Django that is quite the same as you find behind Debussy. It can’t be explained,” he added. “Sometimes I wonder. These guys are such mysteries that it forces us to go beyond our limits.”

I asked what he enjoyed most about his experiences — performing, teaching or composing. Of course, as anticipated, Wrembel loves it all. “I equally love to compose, to compose for film, to teach, to perform, to practice, to improvise, to play things that are pre-written. I love everything.”

To him, these aspects go beyond music. It’s part of our lives. “It’s all the same thing, man. We’re all alive. We’re always interacting with the world, whether we’re teaching or performing or composing.”

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