During the early show at Dizzy’s Club on Sunday, November 7, guitarist/composer Stephane Wrembel told the audience that he might be looking at his cellphone during the set. “I’m not checking my messages,” he said. “I’m looking at the set list.” He added that he usually doesn’t have a fixed set list, but it was important for this performance — a musical history of the merging of New Orleans and European music in the 1920s and ’30s. That was the essence of “Django New Orleans”, four nights, two sets, from November 4-7.
Wrembel pointed out that legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt began playing at dances in 1920 when he was 10 years old — “From eight at night until eight in the morning, all those waltzes.” But the music began to change when New Orleans musicians such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong, and Sidney Bechet began traveling to Europe.
Reinhardt’s first record album, Wrembel said, was made in 1934 and included Harry Akst’s 1925 song, “Dinah”, played at Dizzy’s with a scintillating solo by violinist Daisy Castro (see “Rising Star”, Jersey Jazz, November 2021). Things really changed, Wrembel continued, when the strings in Europe were joined by the American brass. At Dizzy’s, this was signified by the arrival on stage of trumpeter Bria Skonberg and clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Nick Driscoll (sousaphonist Joe Correia was already there). The band played a succession of traditional American jazz standards: the ODJB’s “Tiger Rag”, Duke Ellington’s “Creole Love Song”, “I’ve Found a New Baby” (Spencer Williams/Jack Palmer), and “Sweet Georgia Brown” (Ben Bernie/Maceo Pinkard) before Skonberg delivered a moving vocal performance of Leo Chauliac and Charles Trenet’s “Que Reste t-il Denos Amours” followed by the English version, “I Wish You Love”.
The mood then shifted entirely to France, concluding with two Wrembel favorites: “Bistro Fada”, his theme from Midnight in Paris, and Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s “Minor Swing”. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic — both for the appreciation of the band’s music and the realization that live music is, indeed, back after the long drought. — SANFORD JOSEPHSON
(Photo, from left: Driscoll, Skonberg, Correia and guitarist Josh Kaye (partially hidden), drummer Scott Kettner, Wrembel, Castro, and washboardist David Langlois.
PHOTO BY MICHELLE ROCHE