The Town Hall Presents DJANGO A GOGO 2019
Following the success of last year's program, Stephane Wrembel returns to New York City withDjango a Gogo 2019: A Celebration of Guitar Mastery Through The Music of Django Reinhardt, at The Town Hall in New York City on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 8 p.m. This year's program will not only feature Reinhardt's classics and originals inspired by his work, but also an unusual glimpse of the legendary guitarist's solo pieces. This is a music treasure rarely explored -- and the subject of Wrembel's latest research.
For this concert, Wrembel has assembled a new international all-star cast in the Django Reinhardt style, including Raphael Fays, David Gastine, Serge Krief (a disciple of Matelo Ferret, a Reinhardt accompanist), and his sons Lior Krief and Ezeckiel Krief, and Simba Baumgartner (Reinhardt's great-grandson), whose debut CD, produced by Wrembel, releases on April 26. Also guesting are Josh Kaye (guitar/oud), David Langlois(washboard/percussion) and Daisy Castro (violin). Anchoring will be Wrembel's long time collaborators Thor Jensen on guitar; Ari Folman-Cohen on bass and Nick Anderson on drums.
"It's the culmination of a week we spend together playing music, sharing stories, sharing a journey, really, and it all builds up to something very special," says Wrembel, who jump-starts the Django a Gogo festival with a guitar camp that offers Reinhardt aficionados a chance to workshop with these modern masters. "And at the end we're on stage at The Town Hall. I'm not inviting people just to come play solos and help sell tickets. That's not what I have in mind. I want an extraordinary show, a concert that tells a story."
Wrembel, an authority on Reinhardt's style, is perhaps best known for "Bistro Fada", the theme song from the GRAMMY-winning soundtrack to Woody Allen's 2011 Oscar-winning film, Midnight In Paris. He started Django a Gogo as "a very small event" in 2004, "not as a nostalgia thing," he emphasizes, or a simple tribute to Django Reinhardt, the man, "but to his music. Something special went through him and whatever it was, it's still alive in the music."
He avoids the label "Gypsy jazz" commonly used for Reinhardt's music.
"I know what jazz is. Django is Django. I don't know how to categorize him," he says. "Django was born in 1910 and when he grew up, the music scene in Paris was Debussy and Ravel, the Impressionists, and he's part of that. But he's also a guitarist, so he has that Spanish classical guitar in him. Also jazz and swing arrives from America, and he gets that, plus he's a Gypsy so he's been initiated into Gypsy techniques and traditional Gypsy music. How do you classify a guy like that?"
The Town Hall concert will serve in part as a presentation of Wrembel's latest CD, The Django Experiment IV. Released on his own Water Is Life label on January 23, 2019 (on what would have been Reinhardt's 109th birthday), it's the latest installment of Wrembel's expansion and updating of Reinhardt legacy. But the Town Hall show will also feature a very special treat for Reinhardt fans: a sampling of Reinhardt's solo guitar pieces, which Wrembel has been compiling, transcribing, and recording for Django l'impressionniste, an album scheduled for future release.
"I've been working on this for three years," says Wrembel. "There are 17 pieces, all solo guitar, scattered from 1937 to 1953, and I will debut two or three at the concert. There's swinging jazz Django, there are improvisations, there are preludes. It's classical, but it's Django. I cannot think of anything that sounds quite like that."
As for the ensemble part of the program, he is especially excited about sharing the stage with masters such as Raphael Fays and Serge Krief, personal musical idols and critical influences in his career.
"I saw Raphael when I was 19 or 20. It was one of my first live Django shows. When he touched the guitar he had something transcendental, and I remember thinking 'This is what I want to recreate when I play a concert.' The guy is a living legend," says Wrembel. "And Serge was my teacher. I've never heard anyone play a Django song like he does. It's like Django is sitting next to you."
Born in Paris and raised in Fontainebleau, the home of Impressionism and Django Reinhardt, Wrembel first studied classical piano, beginning at the age of four. But in his mid-teens, he discovered that he had an affinity for guitar. A Pink Floyd fan, he "spent hours learning David Gilmour's style," he said. "So I had a classical background, a passion for rock music, and then I found out about Django. I fell in love with the very strong impressionist feel in his music."
Reinhardt was a Sinti, (a Roma group from Western Europe) and his style it's rooted in Sinti music. Not a Gypsy himself, Wrembel immersed himself in Sinti culture, spending "six, seven years going to the camps, playing for Gypsy weddings, parties, playing with Gypsy friends," he said. "By going there I started learning the atmosphere of what it really means to play Sinti-style guitar. I learned from the masters, from Angelo Debarre and Serge Krief, and I played in the campsites a lot. That's how you learn this music, because it's a specific to a culture. Music is not only the notes. Without the culture, something is missing."
Wrembel enrolled in Boston's Berklee College of Music in 2000, graduating summa cum laudetwo years later, recorded his debut album, Introducing Stephane Wrembel, and moved to New York in 2003. The following year he started Django a Gogo. He has recorded more than a dozen albums, including both his Django Experiment series and his own compositions. Before "Bistro Fada", Woody Allen also used "Big Brother" (from Wrembel's Barbes-Brooklyn CD) in his 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
The Django a Gogo gala performance at The Town Hall on April 27th is the culminating event of the 2019 festival, which draws fans and students from all over the world. Festival events include the guitar camp, jam sessions and live showcases in Wrembel's home base of Maplewood, New Jersey from April 24-28.