The Skip 5 Show #23: Harry Connick, Jr. – Once A Year Day Playoff
Did I ever tell you I love Harry’s work? Well I do, I own all of his albums. This track comes from Harry On Broadway, Act 1 (2006) and is a 50-second jazzy idyll of big band, with a few lines of actor dialogue from The Pajama Game tacked onto the end.
Not at all essential, except as part of the show as a whole. This was the kind of thing I was expecting more of in this series, so far, those tracks that sound odd when out of context.
Here’s yet another disc I snagged from the death throes of our shite little HMV. It’s been a wonderful week of tunes, with lots of Harry listening!
This one’s an easy one for me, a live performance recorded during a 15-night (sold-out) run on Broadway. What’s great about it is the smattering of songs from across his career. The old jazz standards mix with the funkier creole New Orleans stuff, and throw in a few covers and it’s perfect.
We Are In Love is a Harry classic from the 90s, and he’s in full Sinatra mode. This takes me back to university, when my friend Joanna and I would sing it in the halls of the residence (“I… BAM!… know you… BAM!… so well… BAM!… I can tell by… etc”). Fun times.
Then it’s Fred Astaire’s The Way You Look Tonight, classy as always. But don’t think we’re in for a night of crooning only. Harry takes to the piano for a gorgeous piano rendition of Consuelo Velázquez’ Bésame Mucho. He nails the vocals, with strings behind him. Of course, they swing the hell out of it. There’s a couple of minutes of Harry talking about how sexy it is to sing in Spanish, and what it was like to work on Broadway.
That seques into The Other Hours, which jumps us to 2003 and his album Other Hours: Connick On Piano Vol.1, another lovely and (eventually) swingin’ tune in crooner mode. Nowhere With Love is next, off his Come By Me album. Held together by a gorgeous bass line, Harry jazzes up some piano before singing perfectly. I loved that whole album.
How Insensitive is an old standard, originally composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim (and loosely based on Frédéric Chopin’s Prelude No.4). It’s a slow jazzy burner and the whole band absolutely nails it. Now we’re back to Come By Me with, you guessed it, Come By Me. Here it’s a quick solo Harry New Orleans jazz piano romp in the Professor Longhair tradition before the band joins in and gives it even more lift. Much fun! If you don’t wanna dance to this, something’s broken somewhere!
My Time Of Day/I’ve Never Been In Love Before from Guys And Dolls. His voice is perfectly suited for it, going from the slower first track to full swinging big band beauty on the second. Oh man, this is so great. Up next is All The Way, which you might say is Harry hitting the nail on the head a little too well, but when he covers Sinatra it just fits. Great love song.
James Booker’s Bayou Maharajah comes from waaaay back, off Lofty’s Roach Soufflé (1990), just Harry on the piano and oh lordy, the man can play. Then Harry talks a bit about growing up in New Orleans and how he got to spend time with James Booker, which launches Hear Me In The Harmony, a tune he wrote for Booker. It’s a great moment.
Then we’re in New Orleans for mardi gras with Light The Way, a tune Harry wrote about the flambeaus, who used to light the parade routes before there were street lights in the city. What a fun tune, and that drummer is nailing it. But the party ain’t over! Take Her To The Mardi Gras keeps the fever beat alive, double-time! In looking it up, it’s a Wal-Mart-only bonus track from Harry’s Oh My NOLA album. I know that album and this was new to me! There was also a Borders exclusive track, Just Come Home, for that record. And, as Mike knows of suck things, the Japanese release had both extra tracks. Anyway, nevermind, we were partying mardi gras style!
Bourbon Street Parade (written by Paul Barbarin in 1955) is next, and we’re showing no signs of the party ending. This is Harry’s other wheelhouse, just let the band go with solos and wonderful fills all over the place. I can imagine him dancing on stage for this one. It was on Harry’s Chanson du Vieux Carré record, too. And finally, Mardi Gras In New Orleans (also from Chanson du Vieux Carré) gets wedged in at the end when there were only 6 minutes left (and no time for an encore). Oh man, they really leave it all out on the stage. There’s nothing left, they had to have collapsed! GLORY!
I loved this. It started out all serious and croony, with some great jazz standards. Then it fell into a big mardi gras party by the end and what a time! Fan-frickin’-tastic.
This is a DVD too, which adds a bunch more tracks!
Recipe For Love
St. James Infirmary Blues
How Come You Do Me Like You Do?
Oh, Didn’t He Ramble
as well as A Conversation With Harry.
I NEED THIS DVD! Not want. NEED.
Here’s another disc I rescued from the death throes of our shite little HMV. When I was making up my list for the series this week, I spaced out the Harry albums with other stuff in between, in case you burned out on Harry two days in a row. Turns out, there was interest in him (yay!), so here’s another one for your edification…
Every Man Should Know is a lovely soul slow song that plays like a list of things every man should know, as told to a son. Interesting, given that he and his wife (former Victoria’s Secret model Jill Goodacre) have three daughters. Ah well… One Fine Thing shifts to slinky bluesy, oh man. It sounds like a 70s blaxploitation slow song. The flute solo and the muted trumpet stabs, riding over top that glorious piano line,make this one great. The lyrics are a little stalker-ish, how he’s basically a girl he likes, wants to be with her. She’s one fine, fine thing. Sure!
I Love Her brings on the salsa feel and a breathy sax, and holy Frank Sinatra, Batman, this one is a throwback big-time. When the strings swoon in, it’s a dead cert. Of course it’s awesome… Greatest Love Story shifts gears again, to a bluegrass-feeling contry tune with banjo and violin (er, fiddle) over top. This time we’re getting everything his momma told him about life and relationships, and Harry’s relating it to his new bride (because his Mom actually did die when he was young). I assume this one’s for Jill. The band chugs along happily in the background, the musicianship is really great. Fun!
Come See About Me is another slower love song, with beautiful piano (of course). Harry’s there for you, lady, and it’s a beautiful thing… Friend (Goin’ Home) is a bouncy happy tune with a great horn section (I always cheer for the trumpets!). This one has soul and a superb bass line. All the elements come together perfectly, and when the chorus comes in with that choir in the background, hot damn you are lifted!
Now, switch gears from all the love songs here, because now Harry’s happy Being Alone. The tune rolls in on a deep piano line, then we’re right back to the When Harry Met Sally… soundtrack. This is that sweet old late-night jazz Harry is (perhaps) best known for, and it’s glorious. Even better, the song features another hero of mine, Wynton Marsalis on trumpet, an extra voice adding nothing but class… Yup, this is a highlight track for me… Harry sings over a lovely acoustic guitar line in Love My Life Away, a thoughtful, introspective love song that reels you in and holds you close. He’s unhurried, and there’s no doubting his sincerity…
You’ve Got It is next, and it’s a peppy, energetic, uplifting soulful track, complete with horn section and backing choir again. Damn, can this guy do no wrong? Let Me Stay, featuring Branford Marsalis on (of course) a gorgeous saxophone part, while the bass rumbles a guitar strums, and the piano adds fills. It’s gentle but strong, another love song from this old irrepressible lover man. As the tune builds over strings, the saxophone soars and we’re mid-flight into greatness.
S’pposed To Be had to happen, a New Orleans jazz stomper. It’s Mardi Gras, baby! Duet vocals from Kim Burrell and absolutely smokin’ trumpet work from Harry’s longtime trumpeter Leroy Jones makes this one a blast. Oh, and don’t forget that glorious choir and the hand-claps… hot damn, get dancing! And as if that party wasn’t enough, there’s one more track, Time To Go. It’s a a slow waltz love song to the traveling musician who travels miles to be opening act. There are country (lap steel) touches that add woe to the tale. Harry could even believe it’s him in the song, but he’d be wrong.
Glorious. I loved every track. This is real songwriting, and beautifully done and arranged. Let’s all thank Harry for being who he is, unafraid to put himself out there and make records like this!
For anyone interested, here’s Harry’s message from the liner notes:
“this cd is a journey… a musical trip down a winding back road of my desire… no rules, no limits… I wrote what I liked, I played what I felt and I sang what I saw… sometimes I channelled my experiences, sometimes I made up stories… the melodies drifted through me, unfiltered by stylistic boundaries… my years of external influence seamlessly settled into my subconscious, bowing to the inevitability of choice, change…
all my previous recordings have been “limit pushers,” self-imposed challenges that led me to small but important personal victories… this effort is no different, except for one thing: I don’t recall ever reaching quite as deeply – or confidently – into my inhibition pool… I don’t even think I realized that it went that far down! (or up, depending on perspective…)
I hope the listener will trust me as we travel this path together – not trust me to lead, but trust that my sincerity to share the experience is unwaning… and what an experience! it was scary, exciting, tragic, overwhelming and rejuvenating… most importantly, it was an honor, as always, to make music with the hope that people would listen and even enjoy… thank you for the chance to let me show you my world…
Here’s another disc I snagged from the death throes of our shite little HMV. I maybe haven’t talked as much about how much of a fan I am of this man’s work, over the years of typing things into these pages. I know I haven’t yet reviewed much of his huge discography. That’s an oversight I intend to correct.
But let me put it this way. I’ve been a fan of Harry’s since I was in high school. One of his CDs was the first CD I ever bought. I’ve said before, I was the jazz kid. I ate it up. Over the years he’s shown a lot of sides to his talents, and each one’s done very, very well.
This record (from 2015, and his most recent) is jazz, soul, country, love songs, danceable, and above all, fun. Can I just express how happy it makes me just to be able to sit here in and talk about how he made another great record? Fantastic.
Of course, a lot of the songs are about relationships, and he’s got some great lines in here (“You came out of nowhere / you snuck up on me / you put your smile right where my self-control was supposed to be.” from (I Think) I Love You A Little Bit). Some tracks are full of energy, some are gentler, but all of it’s thoughtful and well-constructed. Each track shifts and grows and becomes and, when they’re done, you know you’ve heard another great one.
Thinking on it now, and this would only be for those who are fairly well-versed in his albums, if anything (and feel free to disagree with me) this would fall more into the She and Star Turtle vein, more so than anything else, even though that doesn’t fully nail it either. In other words, it ain’t big band, it ain’t solo jazz piano wizardry, it’s straight up jazzy soul-infused pop rock and love song glory. But even better, it all stands strong on its own as a new album unto itself, fitting perfectly into his discography.
It’s been too long since I played a Harry album, I’m realizing that now. He’s an old friend I haven’t heard from in way too long. His work hits me right, every time. There’s a clarity, an energy, a lift to what he does that has buoyed me for more than half a lifetime. This record’s a keeper, I loved it. Thanks, Harry!
Yes, it’s been a pathetically long time since my last appearance here. But remember, it’s like John Lennon said, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans,” and man, I have been busy making plans to post here for WAY too long. So here’s some of the shit I’ve been listening to. More to come, ‘cos I’ve filled my iPod with all kinds of stuffs. Wahoo!
Terrible Hostess, Volume 2
Hooray for our friends at Mint Records! As you all know, Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle have just released a tasty new disc of excellent music called Let’s Just Stay Here. Talk about making our year! So, in honour of this release, our great friends at Mint sent us some really sweet swag… buttons and stickers (love the airline ‘Fragile’ stickers with Air Carolyn on them!), a Carolyn and NQ luggage tag, and a blood red dish towel to go with a beautiful copy of Carolyn’s Terrible Hostess: Recipes For Disaster, Volume 2 cookbook! Some of the recipes look downright tasty and I can’t wait to try them (with recommended music playing and recommended drink in hand).
Slayer – World Painted Blood
Business-as-usual chaos as only Slayer can muster it. Play this as loud as your player can go. SLAYER!
Slipknot – Slipknot 10th Anniversary Edition
The CD’s the real draw in this set, with all the brutal honesty and aggression intact… and bonus tracks! Sweet.
Hawksley Workman – We’ll Make Time (Even When There Ain’t No Time)
New Hawksley is coming! Get ready! James found this radio broadcast world premiere. It’s a one-idea slow build with enough lyrics to make anyone run out of breath, crashing full-on into rock-out bliss. Ah, Hawksley.
Guided By Sloan
Just noticed that in the liner notes for Sloan’s Navy Blues, Guided By Voices is listed as having shared the stage. Imagine THAT show! I think I’d pass out with bliss…
Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love
Spent the whole time listening to this recognizing all of the influences that have given them their sound (U2, Oasis, Coldplay and tiresomely beyond). Shame they haven’t found their own sound out of the list.
Cage The Elephant – Cage The Elephant
This would sound great live. Kind of reminds me of the Trews although, if they meant what they said in the first track, they don’t give a shit what comparisons I can make. Just a great, fun rawk record.
Wild Beasts – Limbo, Panto
Oddly compelling, with weird party music and falsetto vocals. Could almost be the soundtrack to a 60’s stage show musical. Are we sure this isn’t a Darkness side project?
Yim Yames – A Tribute To
My Morning Jacket dude’s tribute to George Harrison. Stripped-down renditions show the strength of the originals and let the covers shine too.
Miranda Lambert – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
New country meets the moxy of the classic country ladies of days gone by, with a few dud tracks thrown in. This lady can sing, that’s for sure. One foot in a bold new direction, the other stuck in the same old schtick.
Iggy Pop – Preliminaires
Man, Iggy rules. Only this particular wild man could foist such a collection of jazzy. bluesy, rock-ish and Parisian-sounding stuff on our ears and get away with it. And without ridicule, too. Strangely compulsive, and not just because it’s Iggy (and therefore we must love it). A welcome diversion, so long as it’s not an admission that he’s finally slowing down for good.
Harry Connick, Jr. – Blue Light, Red Light
This takes me back to high school .Yes, I was THAT guy back then. Still am now, I’ll have you know. Great swing, astounding arrangements in the best of this style’s traditions. Could be the soundtrack to a grainy-colour 60’s musical, and that’s a very, very good thing.
Flight Of The Conchords – I Told You I Was Freaky
We all love these guys by now, with their quirky humour that’s laugh-out-loud funny. Even if you set aside the images from the TV show in your mind, this is still an hilariously danceable record. These guys are really onto something.