published Friday, March 16th, 2012

French guitarist brings Reinhardt-inspired music to Barking Legs on Thursday

IF YOU GO

What: Stephane Wrembel.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.

Admission: $12 in advance, $15 at the door.

Phone: 624-5347.

Venue website: www.barkinglegs.org.

With it's quick chord changes, swinging tempo and rapid-fire runs up and down the fret board, it might be tempting to refer to Stephane Wrembel as a gypsy jazz guitarist.

That title, however, is wrong on both counts, the New York-based French native said.

"It's misleading for people because when people hear 'gypsy,' they think of the Gipsy Kings, and when they hear jazz, they think Charlie Parker," Wrembel said. "It doesn't give a clue to people who don't know what it is."

When he moved to New York after graduating from Boston's Berklee College of Music, Wrembel often found himself endlessly explaining himself to people who mistook his music for something else, he said.

Now, he said, he prefers credit to his greatest influence as "Django's music," in honor of Belgian guitar legend Django Reinhardt, the artist who popularized the style in the '30s and '40s.

Growing up in Fontainebleau, a satellite community south of Paris, Wrembel began playing piano at age 4. He discovered the guitar in his teens and never looked back.

At first, he focused on learning to play rock, but after hearing Reinhardt's music he became so obsessed with discovering its intricacies that he started hanging out in French gypsy camps to learn directly from the source. Despite his years of formal training, Wrembel said, his education in those camps is one of the defining qualities that sets him apart from other Django-style guitarists in the United States.

"There's something in the attitude, the way you grab the guitar, the way you hit the strings," he said. "You have to grasp it by being soaked in the environment.

"It's really soaking in that life, that culture, that makes the difference. You cannot get that from listening to CDs and stuff; it's a very unique experience."

That tutelage has made Wrembel a sought-after commodity in the States as a performer and a composer. His filmmaking credits include works in two Woody Allen films, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and last year's "Midnight in Paris," for which Wrembel composed the main theme.

Thursday, Wrembel will take the stage at Barking Legs Theater. Just as people often mislabel Django's music, they often face a similar problem describing Wrembel's style, which is woven from many musical threads.

"If you like Django, if you like rock, if you like any kind of world music, you're going to like my music, but you can't classify it as Django music," he said. "Everyone has a problem to classify what I do."

"There are very hot moments and very meditative moments. It's a very full experience."

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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