Harry Connick, Jr.: 30

Jim Santella By

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Recorded just days before his 31st birthday, 30 continues the benchmark concept envisioned with 11, 20 and 25.

Harry Connick, Jr. has opted for a suitable mix of vocal features and instrumental numbers this time out. Four multi-platinum and three platinum albums, three gold albums, two Grammy awards, an Emmy, Cable Ace, Golden Globe and Oscar nominations haven't changed his good taste. The early learning he received in New Orleans seeps through overtly. Connick studied with Ellis Marsalis before moving to New York and attending Hunter College & the Manhattan School of Music.

The aim of Connick's latest career snapshot reveals itself through the format he employs on "If I Were a Bell." Bassist Ben Wolfe starts it with an engaging rhythm. The pianist joins, and together they explore the improvisational aspects. Connick's vocal rendering of the song doesn't appear until the end, where the duo wraps up the standard number appropriately. Elsewhere, Connick blends his mainstream material with more traditional stride piano and barrelhouse romps, such as "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" and "Speak Softly Love." Instrumental ballads, such as "New Orleans" and "Somewhere My Love," provide a lush piano landscape. One gospel selection, with the late Rev. James Moore, finds Connick trading vocal choruses in an emotional partnership. The blues weaves in and out of Connick's program. It has been a natural part of his education. "Junco Partner" unleashes a common-sense blues style that rationalizes all the platinum records and award nominations the singer has garnered.

Closing with a slow, lyrical ballad, Connick duets with Wynton Marsalis ' as guest piano accompanist. Relying on plain, vanilla chords, Marsalis colors the harmony and allows the vocal part to take center stage. Then the two switch roles, as Connick takes over the piano chair and Marsalis picks up his trumpet. Connick's different piano approach is immediately apparent. He prefers a little dissonance in his accompaniment. Marsalis is Marsalis. Emotive and pitching from the heart, he contributes a distinctive magic to the ballad. Both Marsalis and Connick demonstrate their unique ballad approaches. Recommended, Connick's latest benchmark installment comes from a genuine character whose only interest is in sharing beautiful music.

Track Listing: I?m Walkin?; Chattanooga Choo Choo; Somewhere My Love; The Gypsy; If I Were a Bell; Way Down Yonder in New Orleans; Tie a Yellow Ribbon ?Round the Old Oak Tree; There Is Always One More Time; New Orleans; Speak Softly Love; Junco Partner; Don?t Fence Me In; Don?t Like Goodbyes; I?ll Only Miss Her (When I Think Of Her).

Personnel: Harry Connick, Jr.- vocals, piano; Wynton Marsalis- piano & trumpet on "I'll Only Miss Her;" Rev. James Moore- organ & vocals on "There is Always One More Time;" Ben Wolfe- bass on "If I Were a Bell."

Title: 30 | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Columbia Records


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