Harry Connick, Jr. News

'Finding Your Roots' enlightens, inspires family history work

Publication: Deseret News
Date: March 24, 2012
Author: Tiffany Shill

PBS’s 10-part series “Finding Your Roots” illustrates how researchers never quite know what they’ll find when looking into family history, whether it’s in a public record, through the Internet or a story passed down from generations.

Finding your Roots,” which premieres Sunday, March 25, at 7 p.m. on KUED, Ch. 7, is hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University. The series looks into the family history of notable names like Samuel L. Jackson, Barbara Walters and Robert Downey Jr. Gates invites all to look back in their family lines and find what it is that makes them who they are.

“Genealogy is more popular than ever, but it’s far more than a solitary pastime,” says Gates, whose previous projects include “African American Lives” (2006), “African American Lives 2” (2008) and “Faces of America” (2010). “It’s a fascinating endeavor that can drastically alter both history and the way we think of ourselves.”

The premiere episode features guest biographies of musician/actor Harry Connick Jr. and composer/band leader Branford Marsalis. The two are “dear friends” who grew up together in New Orleans with its rich musical heritage.

It’s often been said that people in New Orleans don’t just tell history, they do history,” Gates says.

Gates uses “every tool available” to put together their “book of life.”

Genealogists help stitch together the past, using the paper trail their ancestors left behind,” Gates says.

Their story “illuminates the complicated history of race in New Orleans,” he says. Read more »

Two paths, one place: The ties that bind Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr.

Publication: USA Weekend
Author: Elyssa Gardner
Date: March 22, 2012
For a video featuring Branford and Harry, please visit the USA Weekend website.

“Ready to go?” Branford Marsalis prods Harry Connick Jr., placing his hands on Connick’s shoulders. The celebrated musicians and old friends are at a New York rehearsal hall for a photo shoot, but Connick can’t pry himself away from the piano.

It’s surely a familiar sight for Marsalis, 51, whose father, Ellis, gave Connick, 44, lessons more than four decades ago in their shared hometown, New Orleans.

Connick and Marsalis have remained close friends and collaborate on musical and philanthropic projects, such as supporting artists in their native city after Hurricane Katrina. Now, on Sunday’s Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS, it is revealed that while their ancestors charted very different paths, the family trees were shaped by common historical events.

Both have European ancestors who landed in the South.

Marsalis’ maternal great-great-great-grandfather, John Reinhart Learson, immigrated to New Orleans from Germany before the Civil War. The name Marsalis, however, actually was taken from his great-grandfather’s stepfather.

“My actual great-great-grandfather was a man named Isaac Black,” Marsalis notes.

Connick’s great-great-grandfather arrived in Mobile, Ala., from Ireland and wound up a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. A bit shaken by that revelation, Connick discussed it with his buddy, who reassured him. “I said, ‘Of course he was,’” Marsalis recalls. “‘What else would he have done?’ That doesn’t have any bearing on how Harry and I are with one another. It was a different time.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 23rd, 2012 — 01:07pm

Beacons of song: Marsalis/Calderazzo/Connick

Publication: Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches
Author: Hank Shteamer
Date: January 9, 2012

“If you give a soloist an open solo for thirty seconds, he plays like he’s coming from the piece that you wrote. Then he says, ‘What the hell was that piece I was playing from?’ And the next thirty seconds is, ‘Oh, I guess I’ll play what I learned last night.’ And bang! Minute two is whoever he likes. Which is probably Coltrane.”—Bob Brookmeyer (RIP), quoted in Ben Ratliff’s The Jazz Ear

I think about this quote a lot when I’m hearing jazz live. Often it’s because I’m thinking how much Brookmeyer’s cautionary anecdote applies to the situation at hand. Last night, thankfully, this was not the case.

The show was Branford Marsalis’s “A Duo of Duos” at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room (TONY preview here), during which he dueted first with Joey Calderazzo—his partner on 2011’s Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, over which I’ve already gushed extensively—and second with Harry Connick Jr., the latter of whom didn’t sing. So these were pure saxophone/piano duos, with Marsalis switching between tenor and soprano. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on January 10th, 2012 — 03:58pm

Live preview: Branford Marsalis

Publication: Time Out New York
Author: Hank Shteamer
Date: December 16, 2011

Chances are your parents know who Branford Marsalis is. A trivial point? Maybe, but it’s still not something you could say about many living jazz artists aside from Branford’s trumpet-playing younger bro, Wynton. What can be frustrating is that Branford the celebrity—one fourth of a postcard-perfect Big Easy musical brood, featured commentator in Ken Burns’s Jazz opus, and former sidekick to both Sting and Jay Leno—tends to obscure Branford the artist. This concert is a good occasion to celebrate the latter, a saxophonist who released Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, one of 2011’s most captivating albums in any genre.

To peg that record—a series of duets with pianist Joey Calderazzo, who joins Marsalis for half of this performance—as jazz would sell it way short. Songs gets its mirth out of the way quickly with “One Way,” the bluesy romp that opens the disc; from there, it’s on to roughly 40 minutes of melancholy: seven extraordinarily patient, uncommonly moving examples of what you might call improvisation-driven chamber music. Sometimes mournful (Calderazzo’s “La Valse Kendall”), sometimes eerie (Wayne Shorter’s “Face on the Barroom Floor”), sometimes just plain wrenching (“Hope,” also by the pianist), the set leaves you feeling spent, amazed and anxious to proselytize the virtues of the real Branford Marsalis.

Appropriately, the second pianist appearing alongside Marsalis at tonight’s all-instrumental “A Duo of Duos” program is Harry Connick Jr., another player whose pop fame (see When Harry Met Sally) overshadows his hard-earned, wide-ranging virtuosity. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 20th, 2011 — 10:09am

Harry Connick Jr. Trio - Music From The Happy Elf

Publication: Something Else!
Author: Nick DeRiso
Date: December 18, 2011

This plays like Vince Guaraldi for a new generation, as Harry Connick Jr. performs an all-original, Christmas-themed set that recalls the spirit of the season without falling into the cliches that often follow better known Yuletide classics.

And Connick’s done his share — including the 2003 best-selling album Harry for the Holidays, which featured the original vocal version of “The Happy Elf.” There followed a TV program, a stage production and a new children’s book on the same theme — about this helper for Santa who saves a town full of naughty youngsters from missing out on Christmas.

Music from ‘The Happy Elf’, however, stays well away from his earlier holiday projects’ often very standard fare, not to mention their more-expected singer-led big band arrangements. This album — his fourth in the Connick on Piano series for Marsalis Music — instead is, after its first-track reading from the new book, a cleverly delivered trio recording that surprises as often as it delights. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 19th, 2011 — 12:49pm