THE FIRST concert of Trinity Sanctuary Concerts’ Fall Edition will benefit WRUU Community Radio and showcase the sounds of Stephane Wrembel, the "living face of gypsy jazz," and his band.
The French musician began his musical journey at the age of four, studying classical piano in Fontainebleau, France. After winning numerous prizes for his accomplishments, the rock fan picked up guitar.
“I was playing ‘70s rock, Genesis, Led Zeppelin,” Wrembel remembers. “Then, when I turned 18 or 19, I wanted to be a musician and I wanted to expand my knowledge.”
In his search, Wrembel found the music of Django Reinhardt, the father of gypsy jazz.
“I discovered something that was not jazz—it was something else,” he says. “I started hanging out with gypsies and discovered a whole new world of music. It was a fascinating experience. I spent six or seven years hanging with them, spending days and days at the camp site, learning the craft in the traditional way from them.”
Now, Wrembel regularly honors Reinhart’s legacy in his own style and in his productions. For ten years, he has hosted Django A Gogo, a music and camping festival in New Jersey and New York City that features nightly concerts, jams, student performances, and educational opportunities. The festival culminates in an unforgettable concert at Carnegie Hall.
Wrembel and his trio are also releasing a series of albums, ‘The Django Experiment.’
“We decided to release every year an album of ‘The Django Experiment,’” he explains. “It’s very Django-based stuff and has this specific angle, and now we’re on tour to celebrate the release of The Django Experiment I and II. We just played Carnegie Hall, and the show we are playing is a mix of Django, some of my music...a bit of everything.”
Django’s music has been a part of Wrembel’s life for quite some time, and though Reinhardt died half a century ago, he’s only getting bigger and bigger.
“There’s something eternal about Django,” Wrembel says. “I can’t tell you what it is. It’s some kind of magic at work right there. It’s very peculiar, and I can’t think of another artist that has this kind of reach...a guitar festival under his name, all of the world playing his music, learning his style. You have Bach, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles...but there’s something that’s happening for Django that’s not happening for everybody else.”
In his own music, Wrembel finds inspiration in gypsy jazz as well as blues and rock. The members of his band have their own eclectic roots that diversify the sound. Guitarist Thor Robert Jensen is a self-taught guitarist who has spent much of his career touring the United States in rock bands.
“He’s more of a rock player,” says Wrembel. “He comes from country, rock, blues and also does jazz.”
Drummer Nick Anderson, a San Diego native, is a staple of the New York jazz and improv scene.
“He comes from a reggae, rock, and jazz background,” Wrembel says. “We’ve been playing together for years.”
In addition to his acclaimed solo work and riveting concerts, Wrembel is an in-demand film scorer. The talented artist was recruited by Woody Allen to score the theme for his 2011 film Midnight in Paris. As a result, he was hand-selected by iconic composer and producer Hans Zimmer to perform at the 2012 Academy Awards as a part of Zimmer’s All Star Band.
Wrembel also composed the soundtrack for Allen’s 2008 Golden Globe-winning film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, wrote the soundtrack for 2008 Santa Cruz Film Festival-winning film Goodbye Baby, and has scored for national TV and radio commercials, including Arby’s, JP Morgan Chase, Cheerios, and Frito Lay.
At Trinity, Wrembel—who has headlined Lincoln Center and shared bills with the likes of Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, and The Roots—and band will share music from The Django Experiment I and II, available on Water Is Life Records.
“This is going to be a dynamite performance,” he promises. “It’s going to be a great show, and it’s our first time in Savannah. Something magical’s going to happen—I can’t tell you what, but it’s going to be amazing.”