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Publication: Indianapolis Star
Author: Jay Harvey
Date: November 28, 2011
Critics tend to turn sour (I know: How can anyone tell, right?) when they reread news releases just before setting down their own thoughts on one or another Cultural Product. Videlicet: I wish Marsalis Music hadn’t called Harry Connick Jr.’s “Music from The Happy Elf” CD “ a “new instrumental holiday classic. ” True, Connick’s story about Eubie has a back story that indicates success, including use of the material to inspire a Christmas TV special and a stage musical. Now it’s a picture book, too, and the CD opens with Connick doing a spirited “read-along” version of “The Happy Elf” before he and his trio settle into a lively program of the tunes Connick created for the show.
But I come to praise this CD, not to bury it. The music on its own makes for a great introduction to jazz for young people — as catchy as Vince Guaraldi’s fabled “Charlie Brown Christmas” tunes, but a bit rangier in the improvised portions. Connick has come up with something infectious rhythmically or melodically in these dozen tunes. His piano style is clean-featured and witty, and his longtime sidemen Neal Caine (bass) and Arthur Latin (drums) lend him immaculate partnership. I also think the sound is ideal for this group — Connick slightly in the foreground, his mates clearly recorded but just a tad distant. The engineering couldn’t have been more suitable to the music. (My only other quibble is one vulgar song title, but perhaps it was artistically necessary.)
Back to that first quibble: Shouldn’t there be some waiting period, beyond a flurry of initial success and transformation into several mediums, before something becomes a classic?