Harry Connick, Jr. - Your Songs

2010-02-12 16:17
Your Songs

"Throughout my career, if I have done anything, I have paid attention to every note and every word I sing - if I respect the song. If I cannot project this to a listener, I fail" advised Frank Sinatra when a journalist asked him about the secret to interpreting a song. Harry Connick's been listening. Over the past three decades the triple Grammy-winning crooner and pianist has sold over 25 million albums by "respecting" the song. On his 25th outing he shifts his focus from belting out festive favourites (What A Night, 2008) and New Orleans jazz big band (Nola, 2007) back to reinterpreting Great American songbook standards and contemporary pop covers.

Harry the cultivated crooner takes centre stage here, with his handpicked repertoire spanning languid makeovers of classic hits by Elton John, The Beatles, Elvis and The Carpenters, bookended by seminal ballads from Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole's songbook.

Right, so it's an instant playlist of Valentine's Day vibes for your iPod? For sure. But while it's an eclectic romantic cocktail, it's no smooth jazz muzak lucky packet. Connick's interpretation of evergreen ballads like "All the Way" (featuring saxophonist Branford Marsalis), "The Way You Look Tonight", Chaplin's "Smile" and Cole’s “Mona Lisa” may be understated, in-the-tradition tributes, but his nuanced strings 'n brass orchestrations sidestep any retro supper club schmaltz for lush romance.

And it's on the 'pop' makeovers where Harry's classy croon really starts to give you butterflies. A breezy rendition of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are", a mischievously honky tonk take on Elton John's "Your Song" and a finger-clicking big band take on the Carpenters' "Close to You" are teasing cocktail lounge come-ons that give Ol' Blue Eyes, Bacharach and Bobby Darin's debonair seduction the thumbs up.

Connick isn't Michael Bublé though. Balladry, not bombast is his forte. He nails the loneliness of a long distance relationship on a slow-mo Spanish guitar kissed take on Lennon & McCartney's "And I Love Her". And his perambulatory piano 'n string readings of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" (featuring a superb solo by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis) and Ewan MacColl's "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" are so heartfelt, they're almost hymnal.

Connick knows his way around a pre-coital come-on croon too, easing the listener onto the dance floor with sensually swinging Latin big band slow dance "Besame Mucho", before romancing French first lady Carla Bruni into bed on their erotic tête-à-tête, a bonus Franco-Latino makeover of The Beatles' "And I Love Her".

Michael Bublé may be the poster boy of the ongoing neo-swing revival, but when it comes to suave and sophisticated jazz singing, then few crooners can compare to Harry Connick, Jr.

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