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Posted 10.02.09

Connick does excellent job with stars’ classics

By JOHN WIRT Oct 2, 2009 The 25th album from singer-pianist-arranger Harry Connick Jr. finds the New Orleans native interpreting songs identified with Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Nat “King” Cole, Roberta Flack, Elton John and more. Recorded in large part at Hollywood’s legendary Capitol Studios, Your Songs more than does justice to its source material and the great arrangers who worked with Cole, Sinatra, Dean Martin and other classic vocalists. Apparently not intimidated by the prospect of following such distinctive voices, Connick sings the music with deep but seemingly easy expression. His big band and string orchestra arranging and conducting, too, recast the music in loving detail. Often compared to that king of crooners, Sinatra, Connick nonetheless is his own man. He does “All the Way” his way, singing softly before building his vocals and band to a well-tuned climax preceded by a tenor sax solo from his friend, Branford Marsalis. Another Marsalis, Wynton, plays the most lyrical trumpet solo for Connick’s gently emotional take on “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” Quite a switch from the Marsalis brothers’ playing, New Orleans trumpeter Leroy Jones blows short, percussive notes for a jaunty take on the Carpenters’ “(They Long To Be) Close To You.” Although none of Your Songs’ songs come from New Orleans, Connick’s musical heritage makes itself known through the Charles “Hungry” Williams-style polyrhythmic percussion that drives songs originally recorded by Connick’s piano men peers Elton John and Billy Joel. Connick also interjects John’s “Your Song” with piano fills that may well be affectionately borrowed from such New Orleans pianists as Allen Toussaint, Huey Smith and, the teacher for whom the young Connick was a prized pupil, James Booker. Even though he’s working in the role of interpreter, Connick achieves another creative milestone with Your Songs. Permalink