. His stylistically diverse debut, Jour de Fete (Steeplechase Records, 2013) mixed up classic tunes with original compositions and announced the arrival of a real talent on an instrument rare in jazz. Wonderful World doesn't significantly break the mold but it's nevertheless another hugely enjoyable, sophisticated offering.
Prené exudes lyricism, and, from the first swinging notes of Johnny Green's "Coquette," his debt to Belgian harmonica great Toots Thielemans
in breezy exchanges, whereas Prené's dancing solo perhaps owes more to the bebop tradition. Prené plays outright homage to Reinhardt on the guitarist's "Troublant Bolero" from 1949. Eschewing the original's Cuban vibe, this lean, elegant interpretation embraces the melody while allowing Prené and Valeanu plenty of room to stretch out.
Most of the tracks are played as a trio or quartet, with bassists Lorin Cohen
's piano solo seems a little pedestrian in comparison with Prené's greater dynamism, the harmonica player demonstrating his considerable chops in a stirring finale.
Prené contributes two original compositions, the Django-esque "La Valse de Amy," where he dovetails nicely with Tixier and the altogether more personal-sounding "The Swimmer." This latter, highly melodic numberdriven by an infectious guitar-led groovefeatures sparkling improvisations from Prené and Valeanu and bears all the hallmarks of an instant classic. Prené's inherent lyricism is to the fore on slower numbers like bassist/bandleader Charles Mingus
There's collective panache in Gerald Marks/Seymour Simons' much covered 1931 standard "All of Me," with Prené, Valeanu and Tixier all unleashing brief but feisty solos. A gypsy-jazz take on saxophonist Sonny Rollins
' "Pent-Up House" swings as hard as the original, with Prené and Tixier once more in inspired form.
The warmth of Prené's tone, his virtuosity and the group's collective joie de vivre means that even tunes as old as the proverbial hills sound fresh. Prené, like Thielemans, is a wonderful interpreter and he could probably knock out a few more of these without breaking sweat. If, however, he can hone his own writing skills then he could yet carve a truly unique place for himself and his instrument.
Track Listing: Coquette; What a Wonderful World; Desafinado; La Valse d’Amy; Strollin’; Shape of My Heart; Troublant Bolero; All of Me; Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love; The Swimmer; Pent-Up House.
Personnel: Yvonnick Prene: chromatic harmonica; Michael Valeanu: guitar; Mike King: piano; Lorin Cohen: bass (1-4, 8, 11); Eric Wheeler: bass (5-7, 9-10); Jay Sawyer: drums; Scott Tixier: violin.