I guess this is kind of a concert review as well as one in the non-regular series of posts called "On My Hard Drive"...
Harry Connick Jr. was in Salt Lake last night, and I’m glad it’s close to Father’s Day, because that was the excuse I used.
This tour is in support of two albums, Oh, My NOLA, and Chanson du vieux carre. Both albums were released on the same day, but Chanson was recorded pre-Katrina, and NOLA was recorded post-Katrina.
While NOLA totally showcases Connick’s abilities as an arranger and vocalist, Chanson is an brilliant example of his bandleader/arranger chops. I have a major jealousy complex with Connick. Besides HAIR ENVY, he SUCKS for lots of other reasons too: when he was 22 he single-handedly arranged the music for the Billy Crystal movie, When Harry Met Sally, he’s married to a super-hot chick, former Victoria’s Secret model Jill Goodacre, is a respected actor - he was actually named a "promising new actor" in 1990 in Screen World magazine, has recently acted in a revival of The Pajama Game on Broadway, took piano lessons from Ellis Marsalis, father of jazz greats Wynton and Branford... the list goes on and on. Oh, and he can SING. His lightheartedness reminded me of what a sober Dean Martin might have been like, but then I read today that Connick has been dubbed the Vice-Chairman of the Board, referring to Sinatra’s nickname, Chairman of the Board. Sinatra himself respected Connick’s voice, and always called him "the kid."
Anyway, the concert... the band with Connick was a regular 11 piece band with 3 each of trumpets, trombones, saxophones, a drummer and a bass player. All of these players ended up playing at least one solo on the evening, and each was obviously top tier, without a doubt. These guys SWING, and swing HARD. The setup was all top of the line, with each musician getting his own dedicated mike (and expensive recording mics at that). It took about two songs before it was all dialed in properly from the sound board - as these things usually do. When you do one show per night in a venue, you have to use the first two tunes to get it all fixed up, because the presence of an audience in the room almost negates any sound balancing that was done prior to opening the house for the audience. Things like elevation, humidity, etc, have a big effect on what sound does in space, and you really have to be sharp to dial it in fast.
Obviously, practically the entire evening was filled with the music of these two albums. About three or four songs into the 100 minute set, Connick introduced a guest artist, Lucien Barbarin, a trombone player. Let me just say right here that unless you have experienced the melody of "Summertime" literally WEEPING out the end of a trombone, swirled and stirred about with the skilful aid of a plunger mute, well, you haven’t really heard what a trombone can do.
Barbarin is a Louisiana-based musician, as one might have expected, and has played on other Connick albums, as well as The Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration (also On My Hard Drive), and with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, among lots of others.
The concert was better than what I was expecting. The music was beautiful, it grooved, it swung, it rocked, it kicked. Connick showed himself to be a great showman, a good band leader, a good writer and arranger, and adept at the self-deprecating audience banter.
If this tour happens to make a stop near you, and you like this type of thing, you should make the effort to get out there and see this one.