Big bands always bring memories with them to the concert. This program documents New Orleans memories of bandleader Harry Connick, Jr. as he and his band interpret traditional fare as well as bright new originals. Recorded May 2003 in Los Angeles, the session features an all-star line-up of soloists as well as solid arrangements. As with most of the better big bands, this one owes considerable gratitude to legends such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie. It's deeply ingrained in the soul of each of these seventeen band members.
Connick contributes three exceptional pieces to the concert. His composing comes from a lifetime of study and a lifetime of association with good music. His "Ash Wednesday launches a stirring attack with plenty of exotic moments. It's a classy piece worthy of honors. The album's title track, Connick's "Chanson du Vieux Carré, carries a very different impression. Trading on the spell that envelops one who visits The Big Easy, the miniature suite carries a distinctive French air while bouncing lyrical lines through the scenery. Featuring trombonist Mark Mullins, the song captures the heart of the town.
As for singing? No, this is a big band instrumental recording. However, Lucien Barbarin and Leroy Jones do turn in two strong vocal performances. Jones delivers "Bourbon Street with a downtown slant that makes those lyrics quite clear, adding a powerful trumpet statement along with trombonist Craig Klein's outstanding tour. Trombonist Lucien Barbarin sings Connick's original "Luscious, which features his conversational muted horn on an exotic ballad that recalls the sentiment of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy. The song's lyrics allow Barbarin to have fun with the blues.
For the most part, Connick lets this session run tangent to the norm for traditional New Orleans jazz. He has elected to feature David Schumaker's big hardy baritone on "Petite Fleur and Ned Goold's crisp alto on "Fidgety Feet. Throughout the session, blazing trumpets take their turn in the upper register while lower brass echoes from below with powerful punctuation. Jerry Weldon's feisty tenor romps hard on a vibrant interpretation of "Mardi Gras in New Orleans, capturing the mood accurately with plenty of spirit.
Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans features Connick at the piano and Klein on trombone in a swirling ballad arrangement that fills the room with graceful clouds of harmony. If he ever decides to take a hiatus from acting, singing, playing piano and leading his big band, Harry Connick, Jr. would do well to concentrate on composition and arranging. He's a natural.
Harry Connick Jr.: piano; Neal Caine: bass; Arthur Latin: drums; Charles