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Stephane Wrembel: Origins

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Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning 2011 film Midnight in Paris owes much of its nostalgic charm to guitarist Stephane Wrembel’s “Bistro Fada,” the whimsical theme that accompanies Owen Wilson’s time-traveling journey from the modern-day quays of the Seine back to the Lost Generation’s bohemian soirees. In his 1999 love letter to Gypsy jazz, Sweet and Lowdown, Allen’s boorish protagonist is guitarist Emmet Ray, an imaginary competitor to Django Reinhardt. Following Wrembel’s soundtrack work for Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2008, it appears the auteur found a real-life Django challenger.

“Bistro Fada” is included on the Brooklyn-based guitarist’s fifth album, alongside other tracks that evoke that golden-age milieu. Ironically, Wrembel took his inspiration not from the Sixth Arrondissement , but from Fada , the Williamsburg bistro where he often performs. Born in Paris, Wrembel studied classical piano at the conservatory in Fontainebleau from the age of 4, switching to guitar when he was 16 so he could play rock. A trip to the Django Reinhardt Festival in Samois-sur-Seine led him to begin honing that Hot Club style at Gypsy campsites. Since becoming an expat, he has performed with Les Paul, Lionel Loueke, David Grisman, Frank Vignola and others.

Wrembel also draws from flamenco and blues, influences that temper his tendency to sound like a man possessed by Reinhardt’s ghost, blazing through barnburners “The Edge” and “Prometheus.” Mix in the bite of bathtub gin and it’s easy to feel the freewheeling allure of Paris in the ’20s, or maybe Brooklyn in the ’10s.

Originally Published