Frédéric Yonnet

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Frederic Yonnet
Born (1973-04-30) April 30, 1973 (age 41)
Origin Pont l'Eveque, Calvados,
France
Genres R&B, hip hop soul, soul, neo soul, jazz fusion
Occupations harmonica player, record producer
Instruments harmonica, drums
Years active 1994–present
Labels independent
Associated acts Stevie Wonder, Prince, Dave Chappelle, Erykah Badu, Kindred the Family Soul, Jonas Brothers, Grand Corps Malade, Justin Bieber
Website fredyonnet.com

Frédéric Yonnet (born 1973) is a French musician, producer and recording artist who is best known for his use of the harmonica as a lead in jazz, R&B, funk, gospel and hip-hop influenced music. His ability to play chromatic scales on a diatonic harmonica gives him access to twice as many notes as the instrument is designed to deliver.[1]

Described by Rolling Stone as Prince's "killer harmonica player",[2] Yonnet gained popularity for his on-stage performance with music icon Prince and his harmonica duels[3] with the legendary Stevie Wonder. Yonnet has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists including David Foster, Bob James,[4] Patti Austin, Erykah Badu,[5] John Legend,[6] India.Arie,[7] Angie Stone, Kindred The Family Soul, Justin Bieber, American Idol’s Randy Jackson, The Jonas Brothers and Grand Corps Malade.[8]

Career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Yonnet was born in Pont L'Eveque, Normandy, France. He is the younger of two sons born to French-Guyanese mother, Armande (Galas) Yonnet and Dominique Yonnet, a French civil engineer and part-time comedian and theater actor. His paternal grandfather, Jacques Yonnet, was the noted French artist, writer and author of Paris Noir, a memoir about Paris during the Nazi Occupation.  

As a child, Yonnet and his father performed as a comedy duo in small theaters across France. By the age of 14, he started playing drums and after demonstrating considerable promise as a drummer, he was selected to perform at the Marciac Jazz Festival.

Throughout his childhood, Yonnet suffered with asthma. By 19, he decided to revisit an instrument he had as a child, the harmonica. After dedicating time to mastering the instrument, he noticed a significant decrease in his asthma attacks. Today, he carries a harmonica instead of an inhaler and his past experiences as a drummer influences his rhythmic and percussive style of harmonica playing.

Music career[edit]

Yonnet’s music career began as a drummer but was short lived as he was frequently fired from bands for trying to play the lead. As a harmonica player he performed as a sideman and featured artist in numerous bands in France like BLUE FEVER all the while observing the style of great trumpet players, saxophonists, and bandleaders.  He was a frequent guest on the French television network Canal Plus' Nulle Part Ailleurs, performing with Lol et le Groupe.  

In 1998, while performing at the Cannes Film Festival, Yonnet met several Americans who encouraged him to showcase his talent in the United States. In 2001, Yonnet moved to Washington, DC where he performed in area festivals and clubs, quickly developing a reputation as a “genre-bending” harmonica player.  Yonnet released a sampler CD titled, Blowing Your Mind in Every Key of the Harp.  The CD included five tracks including "Amazing Grace", recorded live at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Los Angeles, CA. Six additional songs were added to the sampler CD and it was ultimately renamed and released in 2005 as Front & Center.

After hearing Yonnet’s music, comedian Dave Chappelle invited him to make guest appearances during Chappelle’s 10-city Block Party Concert tour in 2006. Later that year, Yonnet, along with Erykah Badu and Goapele, were invited to perform at the AACW Blues Festival (Yellow Spring, Ohio) hosted by Chappelle.  

During Chappelle’s introduction of Yonnet at Bluesfest, he tells the story of how he introduced Yonnet to Stevie Wonder when they were backstage at the 2006 Grammy Awards. “[Fred] pulled his harmonica out of his pocket in front of Stevie Wonder and I said ‘Damn’, and he started playing that harmonica, I was scared for him… and Stevie started doing like this, [swaying back and forth] now they hang out every Tuesday and Thursday.”

Yonnet and Wonder have performed together numerous times, always teasing the crowd with a competitive rendition of Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” It was during a Stevie Wonder concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden when Prince first saw Yonnet perform. Several months later, Yonnet was invited to record and ultimately tour with Prince.

Reality CD[1][edit]

In 2010, in a pioneering effort that combined technology, art and reality, Yonnet halted all aspects of production on his most recent project – recording, packaging and video – to give fans access to the raw and rough cuts of his work at various stages of the creative process. Yonnet coined the term “Reality CD” to describe the bold concept of allowing fans to observe key phases of the production. Yonnet’s work in progress, subtitled THE ROUGH CUT, is available exclusively to fans purchasing digital download cards at live concerts and online. A unique code gives users access to THE ROUGH CUT files. Email alerts announce when new material is available for download. Comments posted to the website will be considered in the subsequent REED MY LIPS: THE FINAL MIX, releasing in 2011 and eventually available on iTunes.

Instrument and Gear[edit]

Yonnet exclusively plays 1847 Classic[9] and Silver harmonicas, designed by C. A. Seydel Söhne, the oldest harmonica manufacturer in the world. Yonnet plays his harmonicas straight out of the box and they are not customized. He used Shure Beta 87A microphones and Ultimate Ears 11 Pro and UE reference monitors.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Blowing Your Mind In Every Key of the Harp (2001)
  • Front & Center  (2005)
  • Reed My Lips: The Rough Cut (2010)
  • Reed My Lips: The Final Mix (TBD)

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Collaborations[edit]

References[edit]