April 9, 2013

Midnight in Ithaca: Stephane Wrembel at the Carriage House

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As I stood in the doorway of the concert hall, I unknowingly began to speak to renowned jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel, who recently showcased his world-class talents at Ithaca’s Carriage House Café. He was heading back to New York City the next night, to my hometown of Brooklyn (Wrembel and his band frequent the hipster areas of the borough, playing shows mainly in Park Slope and Williamsburg, not in my more conservative neighborhood of Bay Ridge). With a show that was supposed to start at 8 p.m., and the time being just that, I thought he would politely excuse himself to go on stage. Instead, he led me downstairs for an impromptu interview, in a very French accent.

When I realized who it was I was speaking to, I asked the musician to describe the genre of his music, to which he answered, “That’s a long explanation.” And he wasn’t joking. Ten minutes later, I had learned Wrembel’s music was a mixture of classical, jazz, rock, blues, Indian and anything else you could think of. But he made the distinction quite clear: His style incorporates all of these, but is none of them. Wrembel explained that he saw himself as a shaman. Experiencing his music is like going on a journey; it is a visual experience as much as an aural one. Considering he wrote the both themes for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Vicky Christina Barcelona, this explanation makes perfect sense. All of his performances aspire to put a certain image in the audience’s head, just as scores function in films.

As a world class musician who contributed songs to multiple Academy Award-nominated films. I wondered what Stephane Wrembel was doing in the sleepy town of Ithaca. But Wrembel had been coming here for years — 15, in fact. Calling Ithacans “cool people,” Wrembel was happy to come here as many as three times a year. With Ithaca College and Cornell, he explained, there was “lots of science and stuff floating around, not to mention Carl Sagan’s ghost.” Wrembel’s song “Voyager” is a tribute to the late astronomyl professor Dr. Carl Sagan.

When Wrembel’s bandmates started signaling to him from across the room, I knew I had to wrap things up quickly. So Wrembel left me with some words for my fellow college students: Embrace “the cannibal inside” — live out our passions by acting on instinct, rather than overthinking. These, of course, are words to live by at a place like Cornell.

As Wrembel began his set, we found ourselves in New Mexico with a song aptly named “The Voice of the Desert.” Right away, it was clear Wrembel was in a class all his own. His fingers moved in a flurry of passion and grace. Even if you could not visualize the images associated with the songs, watching Wrembel’s hands was entertainment enough. Next, we moved to Japan with a song called “Tsunami.” Strangely enough, Wrembel had never been to the country but had composed the piece based on the disaster.

Wrembel has a pretty strong fan base in Ithaca, seeing as he’s been here so many times. Mia Park, Ph.D. candidate, has seen Wrembel multiple times. “His shows are very similar,” said Park. “There’s so much passion and they’re all genuine.”

Wrembel plans to return to the Carriage House soon. And for a mere 20 dollars, he’s an act you can afford to see, but can’t afford to miss.

Original Author: Ashley Popp