New York Moments
Release date: November 15, 2019
Label: Steeplechase Records
The fifth release from acclaimed harmonica master Yvonnick Prené, New York Moments was conceived in commemoration of the France-Native harmonica player’s time in New York. Several titles allude to his experiences there, from the obvious (“New Yorker”, “A Brooklyn Tale”) to the less so. The decidedly pared down instrumentation on this album, harmonica, organ and drums, creates a sound as large and vibrant as the city from which the recording gets its name. New York Moments features Brian Charette on the hammond B3 organ and Jordan Young on drums.
Upon listening to New York Moments, one can peer into the musical upbringing of bandleader Yvonnick Prené, and reminiscences of the player’s time studying jazz and building a career in New York City. The vocabulary of his predecessors is espoused from his harp with careful consideration and finesse. Organist Brian Charette provides the harmonic underpinnings of each track with a masterful facility. A SteepleChase stalwart with eight of his own albums on the label, Charette doesn’t limit his inventiveness to the organ’s sonic profile, of course. His solos are a fountainhead of ear-catching ideas, which he conveys with unhurried propulsion, and when he comps behind Prené, he manages to vitalize the music without becoming obtrusive. Jordan Young, a drummer (and educator) who has often worked with Charette, brings a similar mix of energetic snap and esthetic discretion to the project.
The album begins with the incendiary “Ready, Set, Blow” and sets the tone with real New York-style swing. True to the title of the track, Prené and Charette blow over the tunes changes in stunning form. The laid back sultry groove of 46th Street gets its name from the Manhattan location of the New York Harmonica School, one of two successful educational ventures founded by Prené (the other being his online Harmonica Studio). The track demonstrates another side to Prené’s playing, leaving a smoldering swing aside for low-and-slow tasteful phrasing.
Prené’s rich musical prowess can be attributed to the fine players from which he drew influence. As a child, Yvonnick was taken to Paris by his father to see virtuoso blues harmonica player Jean-Jacques Milteau. This performance inspired Yvonnick to pursue playing blues on the diatonic harmonica, enrolling in Milteau’s weekly harmonica class. A young Yvonick later switched to the chromatic harmonica while studying bebop playing, and the music of Toots Thielemans. While the combination of harmonica and organ might seem a strange match, this combo was popularized in such classic Thieleman recordings as “Theme From Summer of ‘42” and “Bluesette”. Listeners to New York Moments get treated to Prené’s homage to these harmonica masters. Prené performs a masterful rendition of Bill Evans’ “Very Early”, a favorite of harmonica player Thielemans. Prené’s composition “Dear Zlap”, which bears a surface resemblance to Wayne Shorter’s Hammer Head, was written for Greg Zlap, who taught at Jean-Jacques Milteau’s group harmonica classes.
The album concludes with “Bad April Fool”, Prené’s nod to his blues roots. On it, he switches back to his first instrument, the diatonic harmonica, to drive the point home, the first time he has recorded on a diatonic harmonica on his own release.
Derived from liner notes by Neil Tesser.
More About the Artist:
Ever since moving to New-York City from his hometown Paris, France, composer and educator Yvonnick Prené has fast become one of the rising stars in the harmonica world. He has recorded with top Jazz artists like Scott Tixier, Pasquale Grasso, Peter Bernstein and toured in the USA, Europe and Africa. Prené is an endorser of Hohner diatonic and chromatic harmonicas. Prené runs the New York Harmonica School where he instructs New Yorkers on how to play the harmonica, with an emphasis on blues and jazz.
He has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists, including Donald Brown, Klingande, Romeo Santos, Rich Perry, Steve Cardenas, Jon Cowherd, Vic Juris, Nate Smith, Donald Edwards, Ira Coleman, Luques Curtis, Justin Brown, Obed Calvaire, , Lorin Cohen, Yotam Silberstein, Avi Rothebard, Jared Gold, Anthony Wonsey, Clovis Nicholas, Laurent Cugny, Alexandre Tassel, Peter Bernstein, Scott Tixier, Gene Bertoncini, Dana Hall, Chiara Izzi, Gilad Hekselman, Chris Potter, Jon Davis, Yaron Herman, Laurent de Wilde, Ryan Cohan, Victor Provost among many others.
Prené has played major jazz clubs in New York City including the Blue Note, The Iridium, Dizzy's Club, Birdland, The Jazz Gallery and Smalls. He has also toured world-wide and has performed most noteworthy jazz festivals including Bern Jazz Festival (Switzerland), Festival Emoi du Jazz (Ivory Coast), Lamentin Jazz Festival (Martinique), SPAH Harmonica Fest 2019 (Tulsa), Hyde Park Jazz Festival (Chicago) and Jazz Sur Seine Festival (Paris). He is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.
LA HABITACION DEL JAZZ
"Es un disco recomendable incluso para aquellos que no sean muy fans de la armónica." Read the full review here.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"You don’t often get a harmonica out in front of a Hammond B3 trio, but it works well as Yvonnick Prene’ uses his harmonica to glide melodies over organ grinder Brian Charette and drummer Jordan Young through a set dominated by originals. Of the covers, the Leslies and harmonica give a pretty take to Bill Evans’ “Very Early” and the early Miles Davis version of “Milestones” is a cool breeze. The team shows how to bop on “Ready, Steady, Blow” and go into overdrive on the rapid fire “Dear Zlap”. Charette gets hip on “A Brooklyn Tale” and goes into a soulful strut during “46th street”. Strong grooves." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"This album is an exciting exploration into what the harmonica can do, once placed in the capable hands of a master musician. It also introduces us to the budding composer; Yvonnick Prené and celebrates jazz as a music that crosses borders and brings cultures together in a positive, creative way." Read the full review here.
"Hallmarked by sprightly playing, this bunch of originals has just the right amount of special sauce to make it a taste treat throughout and always a joy to hear."
Read full review here.