French guitarist Stephane Wrembel has made a name for himself as a Sinti and jazz guitarist in the vein of his hero, Django Reinhardt. His reputation has only increased recently with “Bistro Fada”, the theme Wrembel wrote for Woody Allen’s film, Midnight In Paris. A version of that song is included on his new album, Origins, but its distinctly French feel doesn’t give away all that’s going on here.
There’s the playful, quickfire plucking of “The Edge” or the bluesy “Les Puces Des Batignolles” or the Flamenco-kissed “Minuit Aux Batignolles”—all of which show the breadth of Wrembel’s influences. He’s at his best when he opens up space in unpredictable, hazy compositions like “Water Is Life” and “Voyager (For Carl Sagan)”, but the problem with Origins is that too much of it feels contained. Wrembel’s band here is basic and vibrant, but also anonymous, a quiet background over which Wrembel can vamp on guitar. And, as impressive as his playing is here, it doesn’t always translate into arresting songs. The noodling of “Momentum” never builds up what the title promises, while the late-night quiet of “Vox Populi” sounds too precious for its own good. Origins surely shows just how good Wrembel is at playing guitar, but the songs themselves sound uneven here, and for every success there is something all too forgettable.