Harry Connick, Jr.

Chanson du Vieux Carré

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Chanson du Vieux Carre should simply be titled Harry Connick, Jr.'s New Orleans album. The material chosen for this set is comprised of jazz tunes associated with the Crescent City, or simply tunes Connick wrote about it. According to the liner notes, he arranged it all on his computer while traveling from gig to gig over a period of years. The band performed this material as it was developed, making it part of one set or another night after night for the same period of time. Needless to say, the recording of the album is seamless, celebratory, and polished -- maybe too polished, but that's a minor complaint. Connick does what he does: leads the band, plays a hell of a piano, and wraps it all up tight -- without singing. The set opens with a fine reading of Louis Armstrong's "Someday You'll Be Sorry." The swing is there, but none of the master's killer funky butt grooving; again, that's a minor tiff. Connick's own "Ash Wednesday," with its strange minor-key counterpoint horn lines and a smoking little trumpet solo by Leroy Jones, is one of the finer moments here. The arrangement of Sidney Bechet's "Petit Fleur" is a bit on the reverent side, but it is certainly beautiful. Connick's biggest surprise comes at the very end of the disc when he performs a stellar version of Professor Longhair's "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" big-band style. 'Fess is probably dancing in heaven, because the killer rhythms and brassy horn charts are intercut so well with Connick's piano fills. It's a fine sendoff to the most enjoyable record Connick has done in years.

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