Born in Paris and raised in Fontainebleau, the home of Impressionism and Django Reinhardt, Stephane Wrembel began playing guitar in his mid-teens. A Pink Floyd fan, he “spent hours learning David Gilmour’s style,” he said. “So I had a classical background in piano, 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.” His breakthrough came with his original composition “Bistro Fada,” a Django-influenced swinging waltz that was the theme song for Woody Allen’s 2011 Oscar®-winning film, “Midnight In Paris.” Since then, Wrembel has released five discs dedicated to Reinhardt (The Django Experiment Vol. I-IV & Live at Rochester) & recently produced the debut CD by Simba Baumgartner, Django’s great-grandson. His Django A Gogo festival, launched in 2004, has become one of the world’s most important and influential events, which includes an intensive music camp, celebrating and expanding Reinhardt’s music. In October of 2019, he released Django L’Impressionniste putting the spotlight on 17 little-known solo pieces Reinhardt recorded between 1937 & 1950. Stephane is the first and only interpreter who has performed all of these solo pieces and collected them in one definitive masterwork. It is available digitally and on double-vinyl with liner notes by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke. The Django Experiment V was released on Wrembel’s own Water Is Life Records on January 23, 2020, the 110th anniversary of the birth of Reinhardt. As with the previous “experiments,” The Django Experiment V was recorded with Wrembel and his world-class band performing live, with no headphones or tracking, in a setting conducive to improvisation with each musician pushing their own boundaries to evoke new interpretations of Reinhardt’s music as well as songs by other composers. In addition to Jensen, Cohen-Folman and Anderson, Wrembel was joined in the studio by special guests Nick Driscoll (saxophone, clarinet) and Daisy Castro (violin). Stephane has several more recordings planned for 2020. In the meantime, he and his band will continue to tour behind the release of The Django Experiment V as he prepares for Django A Gogo 2020, which will be held May 5-9 in Maplewood, N.J. & New York City.
I had the chance to catch back up with my friend, Stephane ahead of his 4/2 event in Madison at Cafe Coda. We dive into the event a little but focus a more on the album the band is touring behind, The Django Experiment V and the artists that helped make it happen. We talk people and process, plans for the later part of the year with more new music and as always, we tap into the person behind the artist to make sure Stephane is feeling the goodness of his art as an individual and how he is enjoying life, the complete version. Not only is the art of sound Stephane (and his mates) something that reaches inside of me, I feel like he is someone I’d like to spend time around the dinner table with, just hanging out.