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Posted 10.01.09

Harry Connick Jr. plays 'Your Songs'

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Harry Connick Jr. doesn't look like someone who's released 24 albums: no gray hairs, no stooped posture. At 42 (his birthday was September 11) the singer/pianist was boyish and enthusiastic when we caught up with him at an event at New York's Hiro Ballroom last week to celebrate his latest release. Called "Your Songs," the new album features standards such as "All the Way" and "Some Enchanted Evening" and rock-era pop tunes including "Close to You" and "Can't Help Falling in Love." The idea was to sing songs that people know and love, Connick says. Not that it was his idea necessarily. The concept was mostly dreamed up by impresario and Sony Music executive Clive Davis, who had indicated he'd really like to work with Connick. Connick, an accomplished composer unaccustomed to working with studio bigwigs, admits he was at first scratching his head over the idea of collaborating with Davis: "I didn't even know what that means." Getting on the same page in the beginning wasn't easy. "I'm not gonna lie, a couple of those meetings were rough," Connick told the audience at Hiro, which included 77-year-old Davis. Connick also made fun of Davis' use of music terminology like "picayune" and "strident" and his reference to songs as "copyrights." But there was flattery, too, when Connick addressed Davis directly from the stage between songs. "Clive, I have to say, it was a great learning experience to watch how your brain works," he said. A few tidbits that emerged after picking Connick's brain: Hands on, hands off While Davis, known for building careers for the likes of Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys, was eager to be involved with Connick's latest project, he suggested Connick arrange all the pieces on the album himself. And when it came to recording (which took about two weeks), Connick says Davis respectfully stepped out of the way. Wynton learns Elvis Connick invited jazz trumpeter and lifelong friend Wynton Marsalis to do a solo on his version of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love." Says Connick: "He says, 'I don't know that. I don't listen to Elvis Presley. I don't know the song.' So I played it for him and he said 'OK' and he played it once and went home. And it was a brilliant solo." Paging Dr. Connick After portraying a doctor who develops a breast cancer drug in the 2008 Lifetime movie "Living Proof," Connick says he gets approached by strangers who often confuse him for the real deal: "People have come up to me and said, 'I'm taking the drug Herceptin. Are there any drug interactions or precautions I need to take?' And I say, 'I'm a piano player, man. I don't know what you should be taking.' It's a strange deal." Oh my, NOLA Connick is upbeat about his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, four years after Hurricane Katrina: "Man, New Orleans is really coming along. And as tragic as that storm was, it really shed a lot of light on some topics and issues that needed to be discussed and remedied and I'm so thankful that a lot of progress has been made. It still has a long way to go ... but it really looks like it's moving right along." Permalink