July 9, 2018 | Abby O’Neill — When Dave Chappelle jumped on to the mic to introduce harmonica player Frédéric Yonnet and The Band With No Name, it was clear this would be a special Tiny Desk. Chappelle and Yonnet’s decade-long friendship started when Chappelle invited the French musician to play his Block Party tour in 2006. Yonnet later became the musical host of Dave Chappelle’s Juke Joint, a series of intimate parties featuring Yonnet, The Band With No Name, and an all-star cast of unannounced musicians and actors.
Yonnet (pronounced YAH-nay) kicked off the Tiny Desk concert with a mélange of New Orleans jazz and funk. From the moment the NPR staff first heard his pocket-sized harmonica, you could feel the electricity in the room. There are virtually no limitations to this instrument in the hands of Yonnet, who is famous for his ability to play chromatic notes on a diatonic harmonica. It’s one of the reasons he’s toured with Stevie Wonder, Prince, Erykah Badu and Ed Sheeran. During Chappelle’s introduction, he told the crowd about how Yonnet met Wonder at the Grammys and was asked to hop on the Songs In the Key of Life tour. “He’s so good at playing harmonica that another man good at harmonica hired him,” Chappelle joked.
Yonnet and his Band With No Name were right in the pocket with original funky numbers “Four20” and “FRéEDlosophy,” both of which will appear on his upcoming album, Reed My Lips. Chappelle’s desire to hear some of that “Mississippi Delta blues” prompted “No Smokin’ Blues,” which gave guitarist Robbie McDonald, saxophonist Matthew Rippetoe, trumpet player Joe Herrera and keyboardist Daryl Hunt a chance to shine.
After his friend’s Tiny Desk concert ended, Chappelle spent an hour touring the NPR newsroom, where he mimicked NPR’s newscasters and teased them with genuine affection. It was a great respite from the daily news cycle.
“No Smokin’ Blues”
Frédéric Yonnet (Harmonica), Dennis Turner (Bass), Robbie McDonald (Guitar), Christopher Bynum (Drums), Daryl Hunt (Keyboardist), Joe Herrera (Trumpet), Matthew Rippetoe (Trumpet, Sax)
Producers: Abby O’Neill, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Beck Harlan, CJ Riculan, Khun Minn Ohn; Production Assistants: Catherine Zhang, Téa Mottolese; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR.