An Evening with Harry Connick, Jr.Don’t let Harry Connick Jr.’s ten minute riff about mangoes fool you into thinking that he doesn’t take music seriously. But after a 30 year career as a revered jazz pianist, crooner, actor and entertainer, he is undoubtedly at ease with the stage, prompting some casual diversions from the task at hand.

Mangoes, and his recently discovered allergy to them, are such topics that digress from his beautifully controlled vocal work and stylish piano playing. Doing away with the Sinatra-style ballads, Connick Jr. nevertheless woos the crowd with sensational New Orleans improvisation and a charisma that oozes through his sultry Southern accent. “Y’all just sit back, we’re gonna kick it here for a while.” And kick it he does, along with a six-piece horn section, three saxes, drums and a bass.

Since moving away from the romantic classics that made him famous, particularly his popular soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally, Connick Jr. has dabbled with funk (on albums She and Star Turtle), pop (Only You), musical theatre (Harry on Broadway, Act I) and instrumental jazz (Occasion: Connick on Piano, Volume 2). Tonight he takes us back to his roots, to the humid streets of New Orleans where the sound of the locomotive is echoed in the rhythmic left-hand piano. The right-hand, however, shows signs of modern jazz slipping into his repertoire, pushing harmonies to the brink and demonstrating that Connick Jr. is, ultimately, a jazz man at heart.

His accompanying players display superb skill, both as individuals and as an ensemble. But the most joy comes not from listening to their solos or a tight rearrangement of You Are My Sunshine but from seeing them laze back and crack a few jokes while Connick Jr. dances across the stage, literally shaking his booty. This devil may care attitude sees him take to the kit on a whim, feel the groove from his experienced colleagues and initiate a conga line around the set. “We don’t plan this stuff,” he insists. “You think we practice marching around a stage together?”

As he reveals his allegiances to Melbourne, noting that the Palais has much better sound than last night’s concert at the Sydney Opera House, we are putty in Connick Jr.’s hand. With a committed rendition of It Had to Be You to end the night, people are on their feet in adulation. Between you and me, he just might deserve it.

Michael Coppel Presents presents
An Evening with Harry Connick, Jr.
and his big band

Palais Theatre
Date: Thursday, 27th Mar 2008
Time: 8pm
Bookings: Ticketmaster 136 100

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