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When Harry got romantic

To See You
To See You
By Harry Connick Jr.

Columbia Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the December 20, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

Harry Connick Jr. lacking romance? C'mon – that's like Pete Rose lacking hustle, Bill Gates lacking money or Bill Clinton lacking scandal. But there you have it: In the liner notes to his latest recording, Connick writes that he'd never done an album of just romantic songs before and that an airline stewardess gave him the idea (he is, after all, Harry Connick Jr.).

Ignoring, or at least overlooking for the moment, his breakthrough soundtrack "When Harry Met Sally" (which was pretty darn romantic from start to end), Connick has always had a big streak of romance running through his music, so "To See You" has a warm, familiar feel to it even with 10 new songs.

The knock on Connick has always been that he's no more than a knockoff of Sinatra (Frank Sr., presumably, as opposed to Nancy). Which is silly. Connick first came to the attention of the top musicians in his native New Orleans as a precocious pre-teen pianist, and as he shows on this new release he remains one of the most expressive keyboard artists on the scene. And Connick writes a good chunk of his own songs – including all of them on this outing. Sinatra is strictly a singer, not an instrumentalist, who only rarely writes songs.

Of course Connick was influenced by Sinatra as a singer – find a serious jazz singer of the last half-century who wasn't. But Connick is no imitator – he adds his own twists and quirks to his singing, and has his own phrasing style. And his rough vocals owe at least as much to Chet Baker as anyone.

As a composer, Connick is closer to the lush sounds of Hoagy Carmichael than the brassier Gershwins or Cole Porter. His songs meander, they wander, they have their own tempo separate from the beat. This is a good batch – "Learn to Love" seems likely to have other interpretations recorded in the years to come.

Getting back to Connick's original intent: Yes, this is quite a romantic album with a warm mood and easy rhythm perfect for cuddling in front of a fire.

Not that Harry Connick Jr. would ever need such inducements ...