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Monday, July 30, 2007

North Beach Jazz Fest Report: Stephane Wrembel – Jazz Hands!

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2007 at 5:07 PM

Judging from the fury of “woohoo's” and “hell fuckin' yeah's” that issued forth at Mojito on Friday night, most of the audience at Jazz Forward had a particular affection for physical spectacle.

Notes on a show -- By Johanna Hauser

Some people appreciate Stephane Wrembel for his subtle, rock-infused reinvention of gypsy jazz. But most people love him because when he really gets going on the guitar, you can't see his fingers anymore. Wrembel is one of a handful of musicians in this world who play with a technical skill beyond comprehension. He happily achieves the admiration of a large population whose concern for musicality falls short of their interest in ball sports and competitive gymnastics.

Judging from the fury of “woohoo's” and “hell fuckin' yeah's” that issued forth at Mojito on Friday night, most of the audience at Jazz Forward had a particular affection for physical spectacle.

That's not to say that Wrembel and his band lacked even an ounce of musical sophistication. In calmer moments, the depth of feeling locked inside their hands was more than evident and came seeping out in unexpected flourishes and gritty spits of dissonance.

But when someone is shredding away at lightening speed, is there even time for a subtle appreciation of sound? Is a well-trained hand beautiful in and of itself? Perhaps. Even people who hated rock and roll gawked at Jimi Hendrix's fiery finger tips just as they would have frozen, jaw ajar, upon seeing a tornado or a dying animal. These things are all shocking and express in their own way the condensation of time. They are the unleashing of millions of tediously practiced moments into few seconds of furious climax.

But the fascination brought on by virtuosity gives its reward only as long as it overwhelms both performer and listener alike. There were a few precious moments of this in Wrembel’s set, but they quickly calmed themselves into habitual lulls, that, while executed perfectly, had no more frenzy than a ticking clock.

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