This is not a disc by Harry Connick Jr. the suave, Frank Sinatra-like crooner or even the jazz pianist (who studied with Ellis Marsalis, father of Wynton and Branford). Instead, audiences are reintroduced to Connick the arranger/bandleader conferring a tribute to his native New Orleans on his latest disc, Chanson du Vieux Carré. But this isn´t a reverent history lesson or mournful homage. Leading his 17-piece orchestra in exuberant readings of songs from/about N´awlins including gems by homies Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet, plus a handful of originals Connick´s combo blows the doors off the joint with plenty of taut ensemble playing and brassy swing. Notable exceptions are the urbane, Duke Ellington-like gentility bestowed upon Bechet´s ballad ¨Petite Fleur¨ and ¨New Orleans,¨ which contrasts poetically pensive solos with exhilaratingly twisty big-band passages. For the most part, Chanson overflows with unreservedjoie de vivre, á la Count Basie (at the Count´s 1930s and ´50s peaks) and Billy May´s arrangements for Sinatra´s ´50s Capitol albums. And that´s a good thing. Connick was starting to become a one-trick pony with the Sinatra rip-offs, but Chanson is all swing.
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