French-born jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel doesn’t like to define himself within a particular style. In a recent interview, in advance of his upcoming concert at Suffolk Theater in Riverhead, he discussed with me his disinterest in adhering to genres, how he enjoys incorporating various types of music in his compositions and performances. For Wrembel, a well-rounded musician is one who opens himself up to all music, without paying much attention to style or type, but feeling the music and letting go. This concept of diving into the music and soaking up influences seems key to Wrembel’s success.
Wrembel’s style has been likened to what is referred to as “gypsy jazz,” a European style often attributed to Django Reinhardt. When asked about this particular style of music, Wrembel bristles. “I think that term is bad. It’s a mistake. Gypsy is one thing and jazz is a completely different thing, so I don’t know who invented that term but it’s a very bad connection. I don’t recognize myself as any of that.”
“What we do is linked to a state of mind, not so much the genre. When I compose, I compose based on situations, story, things that happen, visual stuff, you know? When I compose, I use any element that I need to craft the music. What we do is break all genres and material and use what we need to create music. We don’t fall into any genre,” Wrembel said.
Wrembel’s transcendental music really must be heard to be believed. He has released five albums, the latest of which, Origins, is a tour de force, with brilliant pieces like “The Voice From The Desert” and “Voyager (for Carl Sagan).” His concerts promise transcendence as well.
“The show we’re putting on is a real journey, a visual and spiritual journey,” Wrembel says regarding his upcoming performance at Riverhead’s Suffolk Theater March 8 at 8 p.m. “We go through many different atmospheres and places, and we end together. A total journey.”
Wrembel’s music has a beautiful fluidity to it. There are hints of life and nature in every guitar pluck. It’s perhaps this quality that drew the attention of legendary filmmaker Woody Allen, who has used Wrembel’s music on-screen, most recently in 2011’s Midnight in Paris.
“Composing music for Woody Allen is a very specific process, because he’s the one using the song and putting it in his movie. So, he’d say to me that he needed a certain kind of song, and I wrote the type of song he needed,” Wrembel said. “It really depends on the director, some are very confused. If they’re confused, I’m confused. Woody Allen is very specific, he has a very clear vision. As a musician, when you work on a movie, you need a very clear vision from your director.”
While discussing influences from different types of music, Wrembel hearkens back to his youth. “I’d use a lot of influences, rock, ’70s rock, you know? Later, I’d incorporate Django’s stuff with the gypsies. I studied jazz, used salsa music, African music, bluegrass, everything gets added and added. I’m beyond genre, really, it’s what pours through my fingers at this point. Working without restrictions is a way to embrace everything, all futures, become one with the world. Take ‘The Voice From The Desert,’ you let the music take you there, to a real desert, to an imaginary one, whatever your mind conjures.”
Wrembel is looking forward to performing at the Suffolk Theater. “Every night is a one-time experience, it’s never the same. It’s magical every night to do a new concert.”