Stephane Wrembel Records Live Album in Rochester

Guitarist Stephane Wrembel reached some level of notoriety when he was the man behind Woody Allen’s Gypsy-jazz-inspired film Sweet and Lowdown. He has gone on to do a few more soundtracks for Allen, as well as others. It is easy to see why he makes such a good choice for matching music to movies. His compositions, though completely instrumental, tell vivid stories all on their own.

Some artists write lyrics to tell their stories. Some leave their song’s meanings up to the interpretation of the listener. But for Wrembel, each of his compositions had a specific inspiration that he communicated in detail to the audience. The evening started, however, with a meditation on the Universe. Before the band got started, Wrembel wanted everyone to have a clear mind. To arrive at that point we followed his train of thought, pondering how the Universe came to be, and what was there before. ‘Nothing’ is just a concept, so there must have been something. We are a part of the everything forever. With that out of the way, the dining and drinking crowd was primed for Wrembel and his band: Kells Nollenberger on double bass, Thor Jensen on guitar, and drummer Nick Anderson.

Since they were recording the evening (and the evening prior) for a possible future live release, he warned, “Everything can be held against you.” This night they concentrated on material from his two most recent albums Origins and Dreamers of Dreams. The band took the crowd on a journey. A journey around the world, and beyond, through the eyes, mind and sounds of Stephane Wrembel. They started in the desert of the American Southwest with “Devices from the Desert,” a place they would return to later on with “Minuit Aux Batignolles” and second set opener “Let There Be Light.” Wrembel “loves the desert.”

But every destination wasn’t a sun-drenched sand dune. “Tsunami” brought us to a Wrembel-envisioned version of Japan inspired by the movies of Kurosawa. A pleasant airy tune, that was disrupted by a violent second half, representing the tsunami that hit the area of more recent times. “Road to Jos” told of the time the band traveled to Nigeria and had a military transport across the beautiful but war-ridden countryside between gigs. “Lasco” took a trip to one of the oldest caves in France, in which Wrembel pondered if people didn’t actually live there, but in fact just entered for ritual singing. “Orion” finally lifted us from our world and into the cosmos, back where the evening began. He started with the explanations, and the music then captured the scene perfectly. Musically, the band was top-notch. Wrembel’s solos were mystifying. In the moments when the band, Anderson on drums in particular, clicked together with him, the peaks were astounding.

Later in the evening, they played “Big Brother” and “Bistro Fava” from Woody Allen’s Vikki Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris, respectively. Wrembel told a story of how he was cast in a small role for one of the films, but that the one scene he was in got cut. So he joked, if Woody played a song while they were recording this album tonight, maybe he would cut it.

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