As a Sinatra-molded swinger, Harry Connick, Jr. may have had some of his thunder stolen by young star Michael Buble. But with his raved-about performance on Broadway in Pajama Game and his continuing development as a jazz pianist, he’s doing quite nicely, thank you. Chanson du Vieux Carre is one of two new simultaneously released big band tributes to his hometown of New Orleans by him. Released on Marsalis Music, it is a largely instrumental big band session divided between originals and classics that shows off his writing and arranging skills while featuring his longtime trumpeter Leroy Jones and trombonist Lucien Barbarin on incidental vocals. (Connick is in full vocal mode on Oh, My Nola, released by his longtime “A” label, Columbia.) Though his surprisingly few turns at the piano are mostly Basie-like in their edgy economy, his coloristic, sectional approach on tunes such as his own “Luscious” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “New Orleans” evokes Duke Ellington. Named for the storied old section of the French Quarter, the album takes a few songs to get going, but once it does, it has plenty of spark and swagger—and heart. The ghostlike background voicings on Sidney Bechet’s “Petite Fleur” seem to embody spirits of New Orleans past while it’s always great to hear Connick honor his onetime mentor, Professor Longhair, on Longhair’s bumptious “Mardis Gras in New Orleans.” —Lloyd Sachs
For Harry Connick, Jr. and the members of his big band, New Orleans has always been a constant state of mind. Connick’s hometown, the birthplace of so much of America’s musical culture, defines all of his performances, but never more so than on Chanson du Vieux CarrÃƒÂ©, the third disc in the Marsalis Music label’s Connick on Piano series. The album was conceived and executed in May 2003, well before Hurricane Katrina, and showcases Connick’s talents as a pianist, arranger of favorite New Orleans classics, and composer of three titles in debut performances. While Connick does not sing on the recording, key band members Lucien Barbarin (trombone) and Leroy Jones (trumpet) do. Chanson du Vieux CarrÃƒÂ© is a Crescent City love letter, composed two years before the deluge yet never timelier. The album will be released on January 30, 2007, the same day Columbia Records issues Connick’s vocal tribute Oh, My NOLA. A portion of Connick’s royalties from both discs will benefit New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village.