For its first nine editions, guitarist Stephane Wrembel’s Django a Gogo — exploring the music of gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt — has taken the form of a tour, with concerts and the occasional workshop in different cities. But this year, for the first time, it will settle down, mostly, in one town, Maplewood.
On March 3, the central event — a show featuring Wrembel along with Al Di Meola, Larry Keel and others — will take place at Carnegie Hall. But from Feb. 28 to March 5, a variety of concerts and workshops will be offered, mostly at The Woodland and The Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Wrembel’s hometown.
“It’s an amazing little town,” says Wrembel of Maplewood. “And everything is set up to create, here, an amazing camp, because not only are the venues amazing, but right around the venues are all kinds of restaurants, coffeeshops, pubs. We can do jams. Everything can happen within a one- or two-block radius.”
Wrembel has been living in Maplewood on and off since 2003, but grew up in Fontainebleau, France. Reinhardt (1910-1953), though born in Belgium, lived in the Fontainebleau for part of his life.
“When I grew up, Django was always there: The music of Django, we always heard it and stuff,” says Wrembel. “I grew up in the heart of it.
“In France, if you play guitar, most likely, you’re going to play Django. Not only Django: You might play rock, and stuff like that, but everyone has a knowledge of Django – knows a bit of his songs. It’s like bluegrass in America: If you’re in Virginia or the Carolinas and you pick up a guitar or a banjo, you’re going to play bluegrass. It’s going to be part of your thing. Even if you want to play ’70s rock, you’re still gonna have a knowledge of bluegrass.”
The idea of the festival, he says, is “to put together Django masters and non-Django masters, around Django.” In other words, the festival is not devoted solely to Reinhardt’s music, but uses his music as a starting point to explore all kinds of things.
“It’s not just like, ‘This is how Django played that one lick, and this is how you should play it,’ and that’s the end of the story,” says Wrembel.
Wrembel says that while interest in Reinhardt’s music in France has been constant, it seems to be increasing in the United States and other parts of the world.
“People are still discovering how amazing Django was,” he says. “It’s not only amazing, just as a listener, but once you start transcribing, memorizing, playing, you realize how hard it is, how well constructed it is, how intricate it is in terms of harmony and rhythms. It’s absolute magic.”
Here is the schedule for Django a Gogo. For information, visit djangoagogo.com.
4 p.m.: Registration.
8 p.m.: Lecture/demonstration by Michael Bauer on Gypsy guitars and concert by Stephane Wrembel, Denis Chang and Sara L’Abriola at The Woodland, Maplewood.
9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Workshops at The Woodland and Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood.
8 p.m.: Concert: “Django Flamenco!” with Alfonso Ponticelli and Juanito Pascual at The Woodland, Maplewood.
9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Workshops (including an session by Al Di Meola on improvisation) at The Woodland and Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood.
8 p.m.: Concert: Olli Soikkeli and Rhythm Future Quartet at The Woodland, Maplewood.
9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Workshops at The Woodland and Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood.
8:30 p.m.: Concert at Carnegie Hall, New York, featuring Stephane Wrembel, Al Di Meola, Larry Keel, David Gastine, Thor Jensen, Stochelo Rosenberg, Ryan Montbleau, Nick Anderson, Ari Folman-Cohen.
9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Workshops (including a session by Larry Keel on improvisation) at The Woodland and Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood.
8 p.m.: Concert by Paulus Schäfer and others at The Woodland, Maplewood.
10 a.m.-3 p.m. Student performances and party (free to the public)
5 p.m.: Super Jam at Barbès, Brooklyn.
Note: 50 complimentary pairs of tickets to the Carnegie Hall concert are being made available to students in the South Orange-Maplewood School District. Interested students can email their requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, discounted student rush tickets will be available at the door to all the Woodland concerts.