With Harry Connick, Jr., the numbers tell the tale -- five gold and three platinum albums, two Grammys, scores of sold-out concerts and millions of enraptured fans worldwide. Now, it's time to add two new numbers to the tally: Eleven and 25, Harry's newest Columbia albums. Though released simultaneously, these recordings couldn't be more different. 25 is a moving new collection of jazz and pop standards performed on solo piano, while Eleven is a rare set of traditional New Orleans classics from an ensemble of New Orleans jazz masters, including Harry at the tender age of…you guessed it, eleven.
It has always been Harry's way to delight audiences with a wide variety of musical moods and styles, and the two new albums certainly do that. 25 is his latest opus, recorded in October 1992.
Harry explains, "This is about as raw as it gets. This is what I sound like when I'm all alone, away from the lights and the crowds. This is what I sound like when I play whatever comes to mind. This is what I sound like at 25."
Harry's musical maturity has long impressed fans and critics, but he's made even greater strides in 25. Sitting alone at a piano, Harry's unadorned artistic vision comes through. From the album's first track, an intimate rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust," with Harry's mentor Ellis Marsalis on piano, it's clear 25 is Harry's labor of love for the great American song. The syncopated instrumental, "Music, Maestro, Please," displays all of Harry's brazen wit, while his swinging version of "On The Street Where You Live," with its stride rhythm pattern and dense chording, typifies Harry's increasingly complex musical language.
The muted ragtime piece "After You've Gone" is followed by a lavish pounding interpretation of Johnny Mercer's "I'm An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande)" done in pure N'Orleans style. "Moment's Notice," by John Coltrane, emerges as a dark, disjointed yet strangely beautiful instrumental, while "Tangerine" is given a wispy Argentine spin. The gospel-flavored "Didn't He Ramble" is one of Harry's best vocal performances, while his subdued camel-paced piano playing sheds new light on Duke Ellington's "Caravan."
For a twist, Harry plays organ and is joined by New Orleans blues singer Johnny Adams on Johnny Mercer's "Lazybones," in a delightfully dry vocal "competition" between the two. In a heartfelt salute to both his own past and the traditional New Orleans jazz he loves so much, Harry performs the frenzied rag "Muskrat Ramble," which also appears on Eleven.
Next comes the Arlen-Mercer ballad, "This Time The Dream's On Me," one of the most elegantly understated performances ever from Harry Connick, Jr. The album ends with a sleek trio performance of "On The Atchison, Topeka, And The Santa Fe," on which Harry is joined by the great Ray Brown on bass and Ned Goold on tenor sax. It's an invigorating conclusion to an album from a musician growing more confident and able by the year.
Harry Connick Jr. - Piano, Organ, Vocals
Ellis Marsalis - Piano on "Stardust"
Johnny Adams - Vocals on "Lazybones"
Ray Brown - Bass on "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"
Ned Goold - Tenor Saxophone on "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"
Produced by Tracey Freeman
Recorded and mixed by Gregg Rubin at BMG Studio A, NYC, October 2-4, 6, 9, 1992
BMG Engineers - Vince Caro, Sandy Palmer
Additional mixes done at The Hit Factory, NYC
Assistant Engineer - Carl Glanville
Mastered by Joe Lopes at BMG Studios, NYC