Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Stephane Wrembel Releases a Lavish, Charecteristically Edgy New Romany Jazz Album at Drom Tonight

Guitarist Stephane Wrembel made a name for himself as a stormy, erudite interpreter of Django Reinhardt, but his own body of work encompasses far more than that, using Romany jazz as a stepping-off point for his own distinctive ventures into Middle Eastern sounds and psychedelic rock. His lavish, dynamically rich, often poignant new double cd The Django Experiment is streaming at youtube. Disc one is mostly an imaginative mix of Django classics; disc two is mostly originals, in more of a jazz vein than what audiences get at his ongoing, legendary most-every-Sunday night 9 PM-ish residency at Barbes. He’s playing the album release show tonight, June 10 at 8 PM at Drom; hopefully by now you have your $15 advance tickets because it’s an extra five at the door.

The first disc opens with Nuages, Wrembel’s elegantly spare, resonant lines over Thor Jensen’s spring-loaded rhythm guitar, Ari Folman-Cohen’s bass and Nick Anderson’s drums. Wrembel takes somewhat the opposite approach with his tremolo-picking on the waltz Gin-Gin, then he and Folman-Cohen have fun working the chromatic edges of Bouncin’ Around, a close cousin to Brother Can You Spare a Dime.

Nick Driscoll’s clarinet spirals around and intertwines artfully with Wrembel on the jaunty Dinette. By contrast, Wrembel and Jensen max out the modal melancholy in a majestically spacious take of Troublant Bolero, up to a characteristically careening crescendo. It makes a good segue with the first of Wrembel’s originals, Windmills, a brisk, deliciously broodng waltz.

The band goes back to the Django catalog for a bubbly, lickety-split take of Place de Broukere, followed by the bucolic desolation of Carnets de Route,Wrembel’s moodily magical mashup of Django and Pink Floyd. The up-down dynamics continue with the coyly strutting Djangology and then Wrembel’s plaintively mined take of Sasha Distel’s Ma Premiere Guitare. Disc one winds up with Wrembel’s wistful waltz Jacques Prevert followed by a roller-coaster ride through Django’s Minor Swing. the bandleader channeling Wes Montgomery up to a mightily plucked bass solo and finally a stampede out.

The second disc begins with the epically vamping Douce Ambience. It perfectly capsulizes the confluence of Middle Eastern modalities and Romany swing that Wrembel first began mining around ten years ago, the guitarist’s understated unease in contrast with Driscoll’s relentless centrifugal force on soprano sax, Anderson taking it out with a long hailstorm of a solo. Viper’s Dream is pretty close to the Django version, with a little wryly bouncing Tal Farlow thrown in.

A waltz by Bamboula Ferrret benefits from Wrembel’s judicious, occasionally tremolo-picked phrases mixed into an attack that’s equally precise and resonant: all those notes don’t just vanish into thin air. Boston, another waltz, begins wistfully, grows more elegaic and then Wrembel builds a long, growling upward drive. Then the band flips the script with the toe-tapping shuffle Double Scotch, Driscoll adding dixieland effervescence.

Reinhardt’s midtempo stroll Tears reveals itself here as the source of a Beatles hit that Big Lazy likes to take even deeper into the shadows. Nanoc, which is Wrembel’s Caravan, opens with a levantine slink and slithers further off the rails from there. Then he makes a surreal juxtaposition with Django’s Louis Jordan-influenced Heavy Artillery, which is anything but. After that, Minor Blues is middle ground, more or less, Wrembel adding an understated intensity, part Wes Montgomery, part psychedelic rock, with a long, practically frantic sprint out.

Interestingly, the album’s best track isn’t one of the barn-burners but Wrembel’s slow, hushed, allusively flamenco-ish Film Noir. Raising the ante again, Driscoll’s clarinet infuses Songe d’Automne with an indian summer breeze. The final cut is the enigmatically balmy ballad Anouman, ironically the closest thing to straight-up postbop here. Over and over, Wrembel reaffirms his status as paradigm-shifter and one of the world’s most engaging, original innovators in Romany guitar jazz.

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June 10, 2017 Posted by | gypsy music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughtful, Tunefully Arranged Piano Jazz from Mara Rosenbloom

Pianist Mara Rosenbloom’s latest album Songs from the Ground is elegant and purposefuly crafted, with recurrent, sonata-like thematic variations. But there’s a tension here, intentional or not. Alto saxophonist Darius Jones is a hard bop guy: brevity is not necessarily his thing. Rosenbloom is judicious to a fault and anything but showy: she’s all about the tunes. Sometimes that dichotomy provides contrast; in places, it’s jarring. Bassist Sean Conly and drummer Nick Anderson team up for an understated, dancing bounce. True to the album title, everyone keeps things close to the ground: there’s a lot of space here, and nobody uses it more effectively than Rosenbloom.

She also contributes a couple of solo interludes. The album opens with Relief, which builds to a victoriously stately, chordally-fueled third-stream majesty; later, Rosenbloom improvises an insistently crescendoing miniature. The first ensemble track, Whistle Stop, looks back to 80s jazz-pop but with considerably more rhythmic sophistication. taking on a folk-dance pulse on the wings of Rosenbloom’s leaping chords. Small Finds works a simple, emphatic, looped piano figure in 7/4 against Jones’ balmy, gentle lines and eventually goes swinging. Likewise, Unison casts the sax as a string section against Rosenbloom’s circularity and then a marvelously judicious, spacious solo, Conly’s similarly considered solo kicking off an unexpectedly dusky modal drive out. Common Language cleverly takes a wry blues drag and makes an anthem out of it with an expansive but nimbly orchestrated series of exchanges between the sax and piano.

The album winds up with the title track, a rainy-day pastoral epic that rises slowly out of the mist, shifting tempos from a pretty straight-up jazz waltz to a 6/8 sway, Anderson’s tersely emphatic rolls finally signaling a release from restraint for a soaring Jones, moving up and down from carefully considered to a scampering dance. It’s ridiculously catchy, very accessible and just as smartly assembled and played. Not bad for somebody playing with a surgically reconstructed elbow. If it holds up – and let’s hope it does – maybe someday Mara Rosenbloom and Tommy John will have more in common than they realize.

July 20, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment