Take Five With Yvonnick Prene

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Meet Yvonnick Prene:

Yvonnick is a freelance chromatic harmonica player based in New York. Since 2007 Yvonnick has obtained a Master degree in music from Sorbonne Paris IV University, recorded and performed around the world with internationally acclaimed artist such as Alexandre Tassel, Laurent de Wilde, Manu Katche, Romain Pilon, Art Hirahara, Dan Aran, Itai Kriss, Bianca Wu, Guilaume Naturel, Laurent Cugny, Aiden Carrol, Eden Ladin, Yaron Herman, Pierre Olivier Govin, Jerome Regard, Daniel Romeo, Anne Paceo, Scott Tixier... He also received several full scholarships to study in the United States, at the prestigious Columbia University, the City College of New York and at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.

Yvonnick has appeared at the Iridium Jazz Club, The Zinc Bar, The Miller Theater, Wiliamsburg Center, The New School, The Shrine, Tutuma Social Club, and Cleopatra Needle among many other venues.


Chromatic harmonica.

Teachers and/or influences?

My first harmonica teacher was my father. I quit after a couple of lessons because the only tune he knew was Oh Susanna! Anyway he was a music lover, fan of blues and jazz. There was a good record collection at home. As a result I heard this music from a young age. I learned to play the diatonic blues harmonica from Jean Jacques Milteau, Greg Zlap and Sebastien Charlier. Otherwise teachers that have shaped my jazz playing and understanding of the music include Lee Konitz Ben Street, Connie Crothers, Kevin Hays, Jane Ira Bloom, John Patitucci, Jerome Sabbagh.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

Music has always been a big part of my life. At 12 I saw J.J Milteau in Paris at the Petit Journal Montparnasse. I liked very much the atmosphere of the club. Hearing him live at this age was a great emotional experience. He was my hero... I knew some of his solos on the album JJ Milteau Live and Explorer. I always enjoyed singing and playing along those records. I used to play them really loud in my living room. He was my first big influence on the diatonic harmonica before Greg Zlap and Sebastien Charlier. One year later I met him at the Marine Band Club of Utopia where I enrolled at the harmonica school.

Your sound and approach to music:

Listening is the most important quality to me. Being in the moment with the musicians around you, feeling the music together. You can start a tune and anything can happen. I try to be ready for it.

Your teaching approach:

I am still learning and I will do it for the next fifty years. Every student is different and requires special attention. I always ask them what they would like to learn, and I do my best to guide them with tools: exercises, practicing habits, etc. Also for me tradition is essential. You have to be a follower before to be a leader. Unfortunately in jazz harmonica we don't have a lot of models except Toots Thielemans and a few others. I try to keep the spirit and approach of the great teachers I had and try to add my little experience too.

Your dream band:

I don't have a dream band. I would love playing behind an inspiring vocalist. It's all about expressiveness. Also, I really want to play more with Lee Konitz.

Favorite venue:

I really like to go the Village Vanguard also. It had an excellent acoustic, great atmosphere, not to mention great show.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

I remember listening to a bunch of Steve Grossman records when I was 14. Also: Olivier Ker Ourio, Central Park West North;

Belmondo, Infinity;

Stefano Di Baptista, A Prima Vista;

John Coltrane, Giant Steps;

Miles Davis, Four and More.

They all had a big impact on me.

Desert Island picks:

Olivier Ker Ourio, Ote L'ancetre (Pee Wee);

Kenny Wheeler, Angel Song (ECM);

Louis Armstrong, Hot Five, Hot Seven;

Debussy, Pelleas et Melissandre;

Shirley Horn, May the Music Never End.

What is in the near future?

Few gigs and CDs coming up. For more info please go to my website.

By Day:

Practicing, gigging, listening music, working on my thesis, running, swimming...

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