New Orleans Love: Harry Connick Jr.’s Chanson du Vieux Carré

By Daniel Garrett

Harry Connick Jr.
Chanson du Vieux Carré
Arranged, orchestrated, and conducted
by Harry Connick Jr.
Producer: Tracey Freeman
Executive Producer: Ann Marie Wilkins
Marsalis Music/Rounder, 2007

Louis Armstrong’s “Someday You’ll Be Sorry” has a muscular beauty, and it is the first thing on pianist Harry Connick Jr.’s collection of songs inspired by, dedicated to, or associated with New Orleans: the song is firm in structure, intense, and it is appealing and impressive without being pretty. There is sense of amusement, of strolling street charm in “Panama,” a William Tyers song featuring a harmony of horns blowing a fast happy rhythm and balmy melody. The Connick song “Ash Wednesday” has more of a sense of adventure than one imagines a religious observance to have, but that may be the atmosphere of the city, and the nature of the album Chanson du Vieux Carré, on which Connick plays piano throughout, an album that has charm and solidity and more of a cinematic quality than most of the other jazz recordings I have listened to in the last year. The title song, also written by Connick, is a bit downbeat, melancholy, with a kind of slow-walking or slow-dance beat, with Mark Mullins’s trombone offering a light, gesturing, somewhat brooding sound. Paul Barbarin’s “Bourbon Street Parade” has the voice and trumpet of Leroy Jones and the trombone of Craig Klein. Harry Connick Jr. and his band perform Sidney Bechet’s “Petite Fleur.” Sidney Bechet has a formidable reputation as a jazz pioneer but I do not know his work well, and it’s wonderful to hear something of his. It is interesting that the saxophone of David Schumacher sounds lonely and the other horns do not—it is an example of the individual in a group, a demonstration of musical and tonal counterpoint: and the story suggested is of a man discovering love while everyone else goes about his or her business. “Fidgety Feet” has Leroy Jones on trumpet, Charles Goold on saxophone, and Harry Connick Jr. on piano. Connick’s own “Luscious” features Lucien Barbarin singing and on trombone, and it is a sultry trombone, with a sense of the sensuous, and the surprise is the male singer’s claim of being luscious, a claim the trombone certainly proves. Hoagy Carmichael’s “New Orleans” is very nice (much more can be said). Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s “I Still Get Jealous” is brassy music, full of excitation. The saxophone speed of Charles Goold suggests cleverness, delicacy, and intrigue, amid really lively music, in Lew Pollack’s “That’s A Plenty,” before the album ends with Henry Roeland Byrd’s (Professor Longhair’s) “Mardi Gras in New Orleans.”

Daniel Garrett, a New York resident, is a graduate of the New School for Social Research, and the founder of the Cultural Politics Discussion Group at ABC No Rio and Poets House; and his work has appeared in The African, AIM/America’s Intercultural Magazine, AltRap.com, American Book Review, Black American Literature Forum, Changing Men, Cinetext.Philo, The City Sun, Film International, Frictionmagazine.com, The Humanist, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Illuminations, Muse-Apprentice-Guild.com, NatCreole.com, Offscreen.com, Option, The Quarterly Black Review of Books, Rain Taxi, Red River Review, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, The St. Mark’s Poetry Project Newsletter, 24FramesPerSecond.com, UnlikelyStories.org, WaxPoetics.com, and World Literature Today. Author contact: dgarrett31@hotmail.com

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