Stephane Wrembel

Django New Orleans
Stephane Wrembel

The concept is simple enough: a mashup of Django Reinhardt’s gypsy swing with the buoyant sounds of Louis Armstrong and New Orleans jazz. Could easily become marketing hokum, but in the trustworthy hands of French guitarist Wrembel, the results are joyous – and satisfying.

The familiar “Tiger Rag” is a romp down Bourbon Street with a blazing improvisation. “Nympheas” cools things down with slow, interwar jazz laced with winds and Wrembel’s chord comping and fluid arpeggios. It’s gorgeous.

For uptempo swing, “Dinah” offers a sweet amble with vocals, trumpet, and guitar. “Caravan” is another vocal outing – here, clarinet is effectively deployed for beguiling Northern African textures, set against the pulsating rhythms of guitar, percussion, and tuba. “Bourbon Street Parade” has a long violin solo, á la Stephane Grappelli, before a languid Wrembel improv, while “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” is spiced up with Latin rhythms and octave-enhanced guitar.

For faster tempos, the closer “Dark Eyes” cooks at a brisk pace with a trumpet solo and Stephane’s blistering 16th-note runs – including a mad flurry of 32nd notes. Finally, the whole band piles in for even wilder ensemble work. Somewhere, Django and Louis are nodding with approval.

This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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