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Monday, June 7, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 146

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Connick's new CD marks triumphant return to big band

Come By Me

Harry Connick Jr.

Available from: Columbia Records

Our rating: B+

By Jason Caesar Consolacion
Sports Editor

Some things never change.

The same is the case with Harry Connick Jr.'s first big band album since 1991's Blue Light, Red Light. He has released two funk-fused albums, one in 1994 (<I>She<P>) and the other in 1996 (Star Turtle), as well as an album compiled of ballads in 1997 (<I>To See You<P>).

"This recording session," Connick explained, "started out just as many family reunions do -- catching up on careers, families and the really important stuff like hairstyles, wardrobe and weight. It was great to see my big band again.

"This CD is the latest of a long line of CDs on Columbia Records that began when I was 19," he said. "I'm 31 now, and I'm just as proud of this one as any one I've ever done."

Come By Me features a combination of original and standard big band tunes. The covers include "Charade," "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Danny Boy."

The cover track that stands out most, however, is the Irving Berlin classic "Change Partners." The sweet orchestral arrangement, which Connick did himself, accompanies the crooner's smooth baritone voice to form a sweet unison like no other.

Such a combination is nothing new to Connick fans, seeing as how the recording artist has produced such memorable ballads as "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Jill," "To See You" and "Let's Just Kiss."

"Every time I record, I hope to happen upon magical musical moments," Connick said. "They're completely unpredictable and usually rare. You can never count on them.

"But thanks to some extraordinary musicians that blessed me with their presence on this recording, you can," Connick continued. "Ned Goold's tenor solo on 'Change Partners' is a classic. I was just lucky enough to be in the studio when it happened."

Connick also explained the process of creating such sweet and memorable tracks.

"The routine in the studio was pretty basic," Connick said. "I'd rehearse the big band first, ironing out any passages that needed work. Then I'd turn to the orchestra. After working with them, I'd put the two groups together and record live. Everything on the album is live, except for the vocals."

Connick proceeded to say that, during the live recording sessions, he would leave the big band on its own so he could conduct the orchestra. That alone makes the album that much more amazing, considering how crisply the band sounds in sync with the orchestra.

The title track, "Come By Me," is a fun original that features Connick alone with his own piano accompaniment for the first verse before being joined by the orchestra for an exciting denouement. Connick tickles the ivory with a syncopated bassline that contrasts the bright tones of the right hand's descant. It's truly a beauty to hear an artist in the most simple form -- in Connick's case, the piano and his voice.

"Nowhere with Love" serves as the opening track for the album. It is another strong Connick original that also includes a fine orchestral arrangement, featuring a moving accompaniment to the strings' angelic theme.

"Next Door Blues" is a sweet jam session performed by Connick and his orchestra. The track features heady solos by trumpeteer Warren H. Luening, trombonists Charles Loper and William F. Reichenbach, bassoonist John Steinmetz and Connick on the organ.

Surprisingly, with the exception of "Change Partners," Connick's covers aren't as strong as his originals in Come By Me. His renditions of "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Danny Boy" could have been omitted from the album. Let's just say Connick tries too hard to make the tunes his own and fails.

Other performances of standards that turn out below-par include Jule Styne's and Sammy Cahn's "Time After Time," Cole Porter's "Easy to Love" and "Love For Sale."

Connick shines again as a lyricist, especially on the track "A Moment With Me." His use of metaphors and symbolism reflect the artist's obvious satisfaction with his career and his private life.

The album is comparable to Blue Light, Red Light. Already established as a fine musician and respected among his peers in jazz music, Connick blew everyone away with Blue Light, an album that featured all originals.

Come By Me has a feel similar to Blue Light, striking the listener right away with a fierce opening track followed by smooth, swingin' tunes that has one snapping on the off-beats every time.

Connick's ballads are supreme, featuring the artists' sultry piano skills underlying his slick voice. Comparable to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, Connick is at his best when serenading his way into your heart.

Produced once again by Tracey Freeman, a longtime Connick collaborator, Come By Me takes Connick fans back to the good ol' days of 1989's When Harry Met Sally ... soundtrack, 1990's We Are in Love and Blue Light.

If you loved Connick's earlier big band albums, you'll definitely appreciate Come By Me.


 
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