Stephane Wrembel is quite simply one of the finest guitar players in the world.  The breadth and range of his playing and compositions are unmatched. To say that Wrembel— who learned his craft among the Gypsies at campsites in the French countryside— has already had a remarkable career would be an under-statement. This prolific, virtuoso guitarist from France has been releasing a steady stream of music since 2006 and has truly made his mark as one of the most original guitar voices in contemporary music.

David Frick at Rolling Stone Magazine called him “a revelation.” Oscar-winning director Woody Allen recruited him to score the theme song for the smash 2011 film, Midnight in Paris.  Wrembel performed the irresistibly catchy “Bistro Fada” live during the 2012 Academy Awards ceremony. He has headlined Lincoln Center, played major festivals, recorded with mandolin legend David Grisman, toured with master violinist Mark O’Connor and shared stages with everyone from Elvis Costello to Patti Smith to The Roots. The Gitane guitar company has even named a model after him.

Born in Paris and raised in Fontainebleau, the home of Impressionism and Django Reinhardt, Wrembel first studied classical piano at the age of four. In his mid-teens, Wrembel discovered that he had an affinity for guitar. “I started practicing very intensely,” he says. “I was a big Pink Floyd fan; that remains my favorite music. I spent hours learning David Gilmour’s style. When I was 17, I decided to become a professional musician. I knew I had to practice 18 hours a day, and decided that was what I was going to do. 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.”

To further his knowledge of music overall, and to gain experience, Wrembel immersed himself in the Gypsy culture. “When I first started going to the camps I learned that music is not only the notes,” he says. “There is an atmosphere to it. I started learning what it really means to play Sinti style guitar. In the camps you play all day long, nonstop. You don’t learn technical things. The culture doesn’t use names for things; they just practice melody. By playing and playing and playing you become entranced. The music just comes by itself.”

In 2000, Wrembel enrolled in Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music and graduated summa cum laude.  In 2003, he moved to New York City. Now the big question for him was how to make a living playing music. “Most musicians arrive in New York and they look for a job to make money,” he says. “But then they don’t have time to practice and they have to depend on something external for money. I arrived with no money. I called every single restaurant and club in New York. I went to each and every one with my rhythm guitar player. Then, we would get the gig.”

Before long, word of this remarkable European transplant began spreading among fellow musicians and denizens of the teeming New York music scene. In 2002, he released his debut album, Introducing Stephane Wrembel. Vintage Guitar Magazine praised the recording as “pure dazzle and dash, a stunning storm of notes that blankets the melody in a rain of arpeggiated notes.” Gypsy Rumble, released in 2005, which includes David Grisman among its guests, and the following year’s Barbes-Brooklyn, also found favor with critics. Time Out New York wrote that the latter “shows off Wrembel’s limber chops in a variety of settings, including ebullient French Gypsy swing, moody ballads, sultry raga-influenced numbers and a lithe cover of Mongo Santamaria’s ‘Afro Blue.’” Woody Allen used one of the album’s tracks, “Big Brother,” in his 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Wrembel’s fourth album, Terre Des Hommes, was released the same year.

In addition to making a splash with his recordings, Wrembel was dazzling audiences at such major gatherings as the High Sierra Music Festival, the Berkshire Mountain Festival, Whistler International Music Festival and many others, as well as at Lincoln Center. He also created his own event, the annual Django A Go-Go Festival, where he and others influenced by Reinhardt celebrate the Sinti guitar style.

Although Wrembel certainly loves paying homage to his roots, he is in no way bound to his own past. Hence the title of his fifth album Origins, which includes his most recognizable song, “Bistro Fada.” Wrembel had been happy to oblige when Allen’s producer requested “a work that would reflect the magic of Paris” for the Oscar-winning Midnight in Paris. 2012’s Origins touched upon everything from blues to flamenco to rock; all of these influences came together as a genre identifiable only as Stephane Wrembel.

In 2014, Wrembel delivered Dreamers of Dreams, recorded outside of New York City with his band which includes bassist Dave Speranza, rhythm guitarist Roy Williams, and drummer Nick Anderson.  Dreamers of Dreams finds the multifaceted musician corralling a myriad of influences into a hybrid that simultaneously reflects where he has been, and points to where he is headed.

In 2016, Wrembel released two masterfully recorded live albums:  Live In India and Live In Rochester.   Wrembel is extremely popular in both of those locales.

In March of 2017, Wrembel released The Django Experiment I and The Django Experiment II, to coincide with the 2017 Django A Gogo Music Festival at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall.  Both recordings feature the music of Django Reinhardt as well as original compositions by Wrembel and a few other writers and received rave reviews including coverage in Jazz Times, Downbeat, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Weekly, All About Jazz, and more!

On January 23, 2018, Wrembel will release The Django Experiment III to coincide with the anniversary of the birth of Reinhardt. The new year will find Wrembel performing at several highly recognized Django birthday celebrations, touring the East Coast of the U.S. and France while putting the finishing touches on the 2nd annual Django A Gogo for spring of 2018.

And although he has built his reputation as a stylist in the mode of the iconic French Sinti guitarist Django Reinhardt, Wrembel revels in transcending and expanding.   “I just play my own music,” he says. “I like to believe that it is beyond any one genre and that there is something in it for everyone. It’s not only for the rock music lover, or for the Django lover; it’s not only for the jazz lover.  It’s for the music lover.”

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03/03/18 Beacon, New York Towne Crier

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