Before Yvonnick Prene I never considered the harmonica.
I’m embarrassed to admit that the extent of my knowledge even around harmonica and jazz mixing together was an odd little collaboration from the 1990’s. It was The Glory of Gershwin headlining the legendary harmonica player Larry Adler. The CD, like most collections, has some high points (Peter Gabriel doing “Summertime,” Sting performing “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and a spirited “Rhapsody in Blue” with Mr. Adler taking on the clarinet part) and some definite low points (Cher). You can’t put a CD on like that and just press play, you skip tracks. Your musical sanity demands it.
In many ways I am a jazz snob.
- Electronic instruments can wait at the door (Sorry Miles Davis)
- I don’t care for too much experimentation (Sorry Miles again) unless it is in the solo
- Smooth jazz puts me to sleep
- I feel more at home in the world of hard bop and be bop where the saxophone is king
Basically, even in that little rundown, I’m not sure where the harmonica fits in. It’s an anomaly, a glitch in the system, a hiccup; an almost hypnotic variation on the human voice, able to show as much emotion, passion, and charm, but fitting in… where?
Yvonnick Prene’s new CD Jour de Fete opened my beady eyes to new possibilities in jazz… and frankly, for me as a snob, that is kind of cool.
Last week, I wrote an article on Jaleel Shaw, the extraordinary saxophonist and his new CD The Soundtrack of Things to Come (which you can read here). It was kind of a music review, but also kind of discussion on jazz and its impact on my own life.
Honestly, adding myself as a character to the article was me relying on a crutch. Yeah, a crutch.
See, I was terrified to write an actual music review!
I blame Ken Burns. See, I love his Jazz series (Highly recommend), I’ve watched it front to back probably a half dozen times. And in it, you have some of the great jazz experts pontificating on the importance of this artist or that artist or that movement or that performance. They have the resume and expertise to make important declarations like that, stand by them, and… well… I am not them.
Yet, I was inspired by the music of Jaeel Shaw to write, but I used my own experience and love of the music as a justification for my positive review at the end.
So as you can imagine, I was pretty surprised when I received an e-mail from Yvonnick Prene asking if I would like to check out his new CD.
Yvonnick has one of those biographies that most artists would kill for.
Born in Paris, a natural talent, beginning his career as a jazz artist at the young age of 17. He has toured the world, recorded, performed with great artists, and now lives in New York City… See, what I mean?
It’s just classic.
Even his name is cool.
Jour De Fete is his debut solo (released by SteepleChase Records which you can find on amazon here) and is a nice assortment of original songs and covers of works by Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane, for example. Okay, let’s talk about Coltrane for a minute.
What won me over to this CD was Yvonnick’s performance of Coltrane’s “Satellite.” Performing any piece by Coltrane is usually something best avoided like the plague. It’s such a high bar for anyone to jump for. Coltrane, the ground-breaking and tortured genius, is one of those artists who wears his heart on his sleeve so in taking on a piece by him a person can’t help but wonder what new element they have to add to it. It’s like a painter attempting to create their own Van Gogh and hoping to have the same spirited and beautiful madness behind it. Yet, Yvonnick jumped for that bar in his version, creating a song that is 6 minutes of jazz bliss.
When I think of this CD, the first word I always fall on is “introduction.”
See, in many ways this CD is a wonderful introduction to the possibility of the harmonica. Well, at least it was that way for me. As song after song shows another layer that exists in an instrument I never considered. In many ways, I wonder if Yvonnick feels that way as well about the CD since there is such a variety to the performances. From the almost funk/speaking piece of “A Billion Stars” (which I love) to the heartfelt song “Home,” there is something on this CD for any lover of jazz.
Even those, like me, that are new to the wonders of the harmonica in the hands of an artist.
If you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had three novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream (to be released on April 30), My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!…