Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Stephane Wrembel at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 1/24/09

It may have been one of the coldest nights of the year so far, but Stephane Wrembel took the opportunity to reaffirm his status as one of the most exciting, innovative guitarists in any style of music. As an interpreter of Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz, he has few if any equals, but it’s his originals that shift the paradigm and pull the listener in the fastest: he brings as many diverse influences, from country to the Middle East, to his gypsy jazz as he brings Django moves to groove-jazz and rock. With the earring and the ponytail, he’s looking more manouche than he used to, but he’s expanded his repertoire exponentially beyond what was already a deep songbook when he first found a foothold here about five years ago. Playing his acoustic-electric with just a touch of natural distortion through the characteristically crystal-clear Spikehill sound system, he roared and stomped through a completely adrenalizing set of classic covers and originals.


While Wrembel is terrific solo or in a small group, having a rhythm section and a second guitarist behind him as he did tonight frees him up to expand his ideas to the extent that he always probably wanted to but couldn’t when he was carrying so much more melody. His backing band was tremendous: a subtle, tasteful drummer who deftly carried on a call-and-response when the challenge arose, a bassist whose aggressive, on-the-beat pulse was matched by a warm, incisive melodicism, and a second guitarist whose fluid legato made a striking and apt contrast with Wrembel’s staccato intensity. They started out in purist, retro Django mode, Wrembel taking flight with his trademark lickety-split, spectacularly precise runs up and down the scale as the band scurried along behind him. Wrembel is famous for an anecdote about the guitar being a percussion instrument, and leaves no doubt about how he feels about getting the max out of his instrument.


About a half-hour into the set, Wrembel introduced an eerie two-chord vamp over a tango beat that the drummer played with his hands, the second guitarist delivering a warmly incisive solo followed by several rounds of smartly terse variations on the theme from the bassist. They closed on a high note with a long, riveting original number beginning in 6/8 time, Wrembel starting out hypnotic with something of a spaghetti western feel, Django as played by Calexico. As the band effortlessly held down the song’s circular theme, Wrembel hit his wah-wah pedal, building from meandering and exploratory to completely psychedelic. Then he picked up the pace with a fiery, flamenco-inflected passage, shades of a young, inspired Robbie Krieger. Roaring through his distortion pedal, he ripped through a frenetic series of scales a la Jerry Garcia, took a brief interlude for a musical conversation with the drummer and then took the song out with some blazing, frenetic chord-chopping. It’s hard to imagine another guitarist in New York who can match such scorching intensity with as much of a purist melodic sensibility: Wrembel may play an awful lot of notes, but in the end they all count for something. Wrembel maintains a very busy schedule, so you have no excuse not to check him out at some point: lately he’s been playing Bar Tabac at 8 on Fridays and then at Barbes at 9 on Sundays, with frequent Spikehill dates as well.

January 24, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Отличный блог, интересное и полезное содержание!

    Comment by SoodyMout | April 10, 2009 | Reply

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