red lights

Connick Plays it Cool

Harry Connick Jr.
Coronado Theatre
Rockford, IL
Nov. 30, 2001
Harry Connick Jr.
Harry gettin' things swingin'.

Review by Malinda Obershaw
Photos by Terry Mayer

Side-stepping the Frank Sinatra homage and mannerisms in favor of a more personal swoon that emphasized his clever phrasings, Harry Connick Jr. set-up shop last night at the Coronado Theatre.
Connick first achieved universal fame singing the ultra-oldie soundtrack to the romantic comedy "When Harry Met Sally" in 1989. Before that he was a jubilant and creatively energetic pianist in New Orleans, telling amusing stories and peppering his performances with a little singing. Harry Connick Jr.Then Hollywood came a knockin' and figured they found Ol' Blue Eyes reincarnated in a young and handsome body. What they didn't know was while Connick could do a pretty good Chairman of the Board imitation, he couldn't muster the attitude and the sassy style that made Frank a one-of-a-kind. While not hitting the creativity of his pre Hollywood work, Connick has dug deep and brought a bit more of New Orleans in his performance.
Connick is also introducing a whole new audience to some quality jazz. Most notably a four piece tenor saxophone ensemble that crashed through musical barriers with some intricately laced and intertwining jazz instrumentals. Connick brought the hip swing rhythms to "That Old Black Magic" and "With a Song in My Heart." Peeling back the pepper to reveal the spice, he put the heat into "The Jitterbug," a song that was originally cut from "The Wizard of Oz." Connick commands the stage with his suave good looks and hip-cat cool. Gliding his feet along with the infectious rhythms of "Mary Poppins" "Supercalifragilisiticexpialidocious" Connick looked like he invented lounge lizard cool. Ring-a-ding-ding, shimmy, shimmy cool.
The well healed and fashionably dressed crowd couldn't help but swing with the notes as the be-bopping ringmaster on stage hit the ivories with the heart of the French Quarter dripping from his fingers. Trumpet player, Leroy Jones carried the torch with his fiery playing, igniting the rest of the 15 piece orchestra into an inspired jazz free-for-all. Connick got downright inspirational on "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." On "Over the Rainbow" his voice was hittin' the highs just as the electric guitar would shoot 'em down before he could reach the pot 'o gold. This was the one and only low point of the evening. "Pure Imagination / Candy Man" had him carry the silly lyrics into the realm of "it's so bad, it's good" territory. Ditto with the "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" classic "Oompa Loompa." You didn't even miss the Oompa Loompa's singing and bobbing in the background. That's just it. Harry Connick Jr. is about the essence of the music. He doesn't need all those dancers, fireworks, laser lights and all the rest of the special effects that soil (or mask) so many other musicians performances. For him it's all about substance performed with a whole lot of style.

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