I just heard from a friend that today is Harry and Jill Connick’s twentieth anniversary. I was pleased to hear this because I’ve just started listening to Harry’s music on Spotify again, almost every time I get in my car. He is one of those artists I will never get tired of.
I first got into Harry Connick, Jr. when at the home of a friend of my father’s, in North Carolina. I remember hearing a Chopin-esque, virtuosic solo piano introduction, and being instantly struck by the rawness of it. “Who is this?” I asked the friend, and “Harry Connick Jr.,” he responded, with a grin.
I hadn’t realized that he could play like that. That’s when the friend showed me a copy of Harry’s first CD, recorded in New York City when he has about 19, under Columbia Records. On the cover, Harry stands young but tough, a trace of almost cockiness in his expression. The music speaks for itself: unrestrained piano playing, with a touch like rain on a summer evening. Still one of my favorite solo jazz records of all time.
I dug a little deeper, and discovered Oh, My Nola, Chanson du Vieux Carres, Star Turtle, and She. I can’t speak to the irreversible effect these albums had on my musical and personal life.
I quickly came to realize that Harry was just as powerful a piano player, big band writer, arranger, bandleader and songwriter has he was a singer. Fascinated, I looked around for resources on his life and his music. I spent a summer transcribing and absorbing his New Orleans style of piano playing, adopted from one of his early teachers, James Booker.
One great resource I found was The Worlds Of Harry Connick Jr. It’s on YouTube. It shares interviews with Ellis, Wynton, and Branford Marsalis, Harry himself, and various musicians and actors who had worked with him. Check it out!
One thing I found when researching and studying Harry is that he always comes back to the music. He even says in an interview from his newest “Live On Broadway” DVD set: “It’s always been about the music.” I guess that’s why I’ve always been such a fan. Harry’s always had relentless focus, drive, and consistency when it comes to the music. You can hear it in his playing, his arranging, his singing, and you can even see it in his acting.
You could make the argument that he’s super talented – which he is (a genius), or you could make half a dozen other arguments as to why this man is able to do what he does on the level he does it. But… none of those things really matter. I guess the reason I look up to Harry so much is because he keeps reminding me that the music is what matters.
Happy Anniversary Harry and Jill!