Camarade Soleil performs gypsy jams influenced by Django Reinhardt and the traditions of African, Indian and Middle Eastern music. - Photo by Wilmine Augier

A free soul on a musical flight

Stephane Wrembel was 20 when he discovered Django Reinhardt. He had just started studying jazz composition and arranging at the American School in Paris, France, and his teacher, guitarist Laurent Hestin, was performing occasionally with Babik Reinhardt, son of the famous gypsy guitarist.

Wrembel learned a couple of songs and bought a copy of "Djangology 49." He didn't know much about jazz, but he knew he loved it.

"It was very dissonant and consonant at the same time, very mysterious and magical," Wrembel says.

Wrembel and his new band, Camarade Soleil, will perform at 9 p.m. Friday, May 25, at the Mobius, 281 Fourth St., Ashland.

Just a short time after Wrembel's introduction to Reinhardt, he attended the Django Reinhardt Festival at Samois-sur-Seine.

There he heard live gypsy jazz for the first time and said he was changed forever. He began studying with jazz artists Serge Krief and Angelo Debarre, and he began hanging out at a gypsy campsite to play with guitarists Emmanuel Kassimo and Tifrere Ziegler. He learned important aspects of the music, including the non-attachment to material things and the spiritual connection, he said. He learned to have a free soul.

After Wrembel graduated from the American School, he studied on a scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He focused on contemporary jazz, and he learned the foundations of Indian and Middle Eastern music while jamming with other foreign students.

He met bassist Jared Engel, and the two left Boston for New York City. One of their biggest encounters was an opportunity to tour with mandolinist David Grisman.

Today Wrembel and Engel compose and perform what they call gypsy jam. Their band, Camarade Soleil, also features drummer Julien Augier and keyboard player Matthias Bublath, two musicians that Wrembel met while attending Berklee.

"The new band is very special," Wrembel says. "We perform music like Django's, but with a lot of improvisation.

"It has a heavy groove aspect to it," he says, "with influences from all over the world. It's closer to rock.

Wrembel's new CD, "Barbes-Brooklyn," features French acoustic gypsy music inspired by Reinhardt, but with more focus on composition and mood. Wrembel says that he didn't want it to be another Django cover album.

Admission to the show at the Mobius costs $12; $10 for students. Call 488-8894.

Share This Story