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Posted 09.30.09

harry sings a new tune

Jazz-pop singer-pianist Harry Connick Jr. and the Great American Songbook are close friends. In fact, the good-looking, smooth-sounding crooner, originally from New Orleans, has basically made his career singing standards. And while that remains true on his latest album, Your Songs, there is a decidedly modern twist, courtesy of uber-producer and diva expert Clive Davis (Alicia Keys, Leona Lewis, Kelly Clarkson, Whitney Houston). This time Connick tackles such modern classics as Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are, The Beatles' And I Love Her, and Roberta Flack's First Time Ever I Saw Your Face alongside older tunes. "I had never done any kind of record with anybody else, as far as collaborations," said Connick, 42, in Toronto recently, dressed casually in a black leather jacket, jeans and black crocs. "So he said, 'Let's feature you as a singer. Let's not worry so much about solos and arrangements and things like that. Let's just get you out there singing some songs that everybody knows.' " Davis requested a meeting with Connick back in December to talk about the possibility of working together. The duo had never met before. Davis assured Connick he could still arrange and orchestrate the material the way he wanted to but Davis wanted to help him "mould it into (his) vision," while keeping Connick's musicality. But Connick, who has recorded 24 albums and sold 25 million worldwide, said it took a while to get used to having Davis commenting on his every creative step. "I was a little taken aback at first and there were times during the process that I got a little bit irritable and frustrated," he said. "He did too. It's not like I'm some 18-year-old. I've established myself. For somebody to constantly be on your back was a new feeling for me. And for somebody to tell him, 'I think you're wrong,' I think was a new experience for him. So I'd say, 80% of the time it was great and 20% of the time it was a little bit rough." Ultimately, Connick said, Davis pushed him to move out of his comfort zone. "I found myself going to places that I wouldn't have chosen to go -- that's pretty cool," he said. Connick, who plans to tour in the spring, said the orchestrations weren't as intricate as he would normally write and the song choices weren't ones he would have normally picked. "Like Close to You, it just never occurred to me to sing that song, or Your Song, by Elton John -- it's just never crossed my mind. And there were a few of them like that. We talked about everything from Shania Twain to Lou Gramm. I mean we talked about tons and tons and tons of songs. This is where he asked me to place my trust in him. He said, 'Let me sign off on all the songs.' " As a result some of the tunes that Connick recorded didn't make the final cut. like Nat King Cole's Answer Me My Love and Burt Bacharach's A House Is Not a Home. Davis didn't think either was well known enough in the mainstream. Besame Mucho, which did make it on the album, came at the suggestion of Connick's father, the former Orleans parish district attorney, even though Connick's wife, former Victoria's Secret model Jill Goodacre with whom he has three girls, had never heard of it. "So not everybody knows every song, but most of them," said Connick. Permalink