Yvonnick Prene has called New York home since 2007, but jazz fans in and around the Big Apple and beyond can be forgiven if they lacked awareness about his harmonica skills until more recent times. His first albumthe inviting Jour de Fête (SteepleChase Records, 2013)took a while to arrive, so the only way to learn about Prene prior to 2013 was through word of mouth or a chance live encounter. Now, judging from his recent output, it appears that he's making up for lost time. Two more albumsWonderful World (Self Produced, 2014) and Merci Toots (Self Produced, 2015)came in quick succession after his debut, a full gigging calendar in the past few years has kept him in the public eye, and a flurry of writing and publishing activity has produced a good number of jazz harmonica educational publications from this rising star. And now there's Breathe.
Prene's fourth album finds him working within an organ-centric setting. It's a first on record for him, but it sounds as if he's been dealing with this format forever. Everything from the lively "Blues Comes Down The Seine" to the gently waltzing "As Night Falls" sounds natural as can be. Those two pieces bookend the album, but what's in betweenan easy grooving rendition of pianist Monty Alexander's "Got To Go," a charged original in tribute to the Tixier brothers, a joyful calypso number dubbed "The Comedian," and several other winnersis just as interesting.
Prene's band here includes two veteransorganist Jared Gold and guitarist Peter Bernsteinand relative newcomer Allan Mednard on drums. For the most part, these four prove to be a simpatico set of players, ably supporting one another and playing off of each other. Mednard is occasionally a tad too heavy-handed for the topic at hand, evident in his crash-filled bossa nova backing on "Armorica," but that's just a small caveat. The big picture that Breathe projectscentrist sounds with enough surprises in the structure, soloing, and interplay to hold interestis a bright one.
Blues Come Down The Seine; Looking Up; Breathe; Got To Go; Mr Tix; The Comedian; Armorica; As Night Falls.
Yvonnick Prene: harmonica; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Jared Gold: Hammond B3 organ; Allan Mednard: drums.