Harry Connick Jr. sets the right mood for romance on To See You

Jason Caesar Consolacion

Staff Writer

Harry Connick Jr.: To See You

(Columbia)

On a plane ride last year, Harry Connick Jr. was asked by a flight attendant to recommend one of his albums for "romantic purposes." The crooner couldn't think of any one album, only several pieces from several different albums. It was then that the concept for Connick's newest release was born.

To See You is a collection of love ballads written and conducted by Connick. It marks his return to jazz after his stints with funk, blues and pop during the releases of She and Star Turtle.

The album was recorded live at Capitol Records in Los Angeles with a jazz quartet and a 50 piece orchestra.

"I surrounded the quartet with the orchestra," Connick said, "so between vocal/orchestral passages, the quartet would play. Then the orchestra would come back in. It really was a unique experience."

To maintain the album's original idea, every track is a slow, sensual adagio. "Let Me Love Tonight" features a gloomy introduction by the orchestra, followed by Connick's soothing vocals. The interlude includes a marvelous duet between tenor saxophonist Charles Goold and Connick on the piano.

The album's title track offers a pairing of the artist's voice with a shrewd accompaniment played by Weldon Dean Parks on guitar. "Let's Just Kiss," is probably Connick's greatest composition on the album. With a mollifying melody accompanied by rich orchestral colors, Connick creates a superb ballad, reminiscent of "Jill" from 1991's Blue Light, Red Light.

"Heart Beyond Repair" is the only track with Connick and the quartet alone. In a song about the confession of betrayal, the solos of Connick and Goold diverge the melody with striking syncopation.

"Once" is a melodic tribute to such greats as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett while "Learn to Love" portrays Connick's ultimate expression of his roots and New Orleans jazz. A brilliant solo by trumpeter Leroy Jones counters the brass section's grunt and the strings' fierce swing.

Bassist Reginald Veal is featured in the introduction of "Love Me Some You," a dark ballad about a man's anxiety to meet his lover. "Much Love," an even darker piece, showcases Connick's lyrical ability. Lines such as, "The heat of winter's chill on my face/Burning that's deep in my chest/It's cold and familiar in second place/Knowing I've done my best," prove that Connick can also express his thoughts well through poetry.

"In Love Again," a piece for trumpet, bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello and the quartet, is another song that shows off Connick's sagacity as a composer and features a wondrous duet between the piano and the bass. "Loved By Me," concludes the album with an amusing orchestral accompaniment and a clever romantic melody.

Produced by longtime Connick collaborator Tracey Freeman, To See You offers the perfect ingredient to a romantic evening. "With this album," Connick said, "all you have to do is turn it on and do your business."

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