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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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HARRY CONNICK Jr.

Chanson du Vieux Carré

Marsalis Music 0874946000628

 

 

 

 



1. Someday You’ll Be Sorry
2. Panama
3. Ash Wednesday
4. Chanson du Vieux Carré
5. Bourbon Street Parade
6. Petite Fleur
7. Fidgety Feet
8. Luscious
9. New Orleans
10. I Still Get Jealous
11. That’s a Plenty
12. Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Harry Connick, Jr. – Piano
Neal Caine - Bass
Arthur Latin – Drums
Charles "Ned" Goold, James Greene - Alto sax
Jerry Weldon, Mike Karn - Tenor sax
Dave Schumacher - Baritone sax
Leroy Jones - Trumpet, vocal
Roger Ingram, Derrick Gardner, Joe Magnarelli – Trumpet
Lucien Barbarin - Trombone, vocal
Mark Mullins, Craig Klein, John Allred – Trombone
Joe Barati - Bass trombone.
 

Harry Connick Jr. became famous as a singer who also played the piano. But some of his recent albums have stressed his abilities as a pianist rather than as a vocalist. In fact he doesn’t sing at all on this new disc, leaving the vocals to two of his band members: Leroy Jones on Bourbon Street Parade and Lucien Barbarin on Luscious. Perhaps because Connick became popular through singing on the soundtrack of When Harry Met Sally, he is still not accepted as a genuine jazz performer by some pundits. Yet his devotion to the piano style of Thelonious Monk and his previous instrumental albums suggest that he is a real jazzman.

In fact Connick’s main talent on show in this CD is as arranger for his big band. He wrote the arrangements for all the tracks, as well as composing three of the tunes. The album was actually recorded in 2003, before Hurricane Katrina so damaged New Orelans, but this collection serves as a fitting tribute to the city, where Harry was born 40 years ago.

Harry is an interesting (I might even say unique) arranger. He throws all kinds of sounds into the mix and often introduces discords. Several tracks end abruptly and the general mood is similar to the cheeky impudence of Woody Herman’s Herds. On the opening track, sections of the band lurch in and out – sometimes inserting exclamation marks into an otherwise placid arrangement. Harry does an economical piano solo, almost Basie-like in its minimalism. The front sleeve lists this CD as "Connick on Piano 3" but there was much more of his piano on the two preceding albums, which used fewer personnel. Craig Klein adds a nice growling trombone solo, and Leroy Jones is outspoken on trumpet. Leroy is a key member of the band, soloing on many tracks and virtually carrying Panama, as well as doing a mannered vocal on Bourbon Street Parade.

Ash Wednesday has an ominous, brooding feel about it, with orchestral voicings reminiscent of Stan Kenton. The title-track conveys something of the same mood: a mournful piece featuring Mark Mullins’s lonely trombone. Petite Fleur goes against expectations by featuring baritone saxist David Schumacher, while Fidgety Feet treats the familiar melody with imaginative licence. Luscious (a Connick original) puts the spotlight on Lucien Barbarin and his wah-wah trombone, backed by jungle drums. His guttural vocal declares that he is "Luscious" and who can argue?

Harry Connick’s piano delicately states the theme of New Orleans and his arrangement warmly conveys the appeal of the city. I Still Get Jealous (a little-known tune by Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne from the 1947 musical High Button Shoes) is a brief big-band flagwaver. That’s a Plenty starts as a sort of street-band performance before swinging into solos by Leroy Jones, Lucien Barbarin and Charles "Ned" Goold. The CD ends with Professor Longhair’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans, appropriately arranged in Longhair’s style, with that typical Big Easy beat and breathing the very essence of New Orleans.

I’ve had my doubts about Harry Connick Jr. in the past, wondering exactly how deep is his commitment to jazz, but this album proves that he is genuinely committed and can shine particularly as a big-band arranger.


Tony Augarde


 



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