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Harry for the Holidays

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Album Review

Ten years after his first holiday-themed album, When My Heart Finds Christmas, pianist/vocalist Harry Connick, Jr. found the spirit again with Harry for the Holidays. Still centered on Connick's vocals, this foray into "tinsel tunes" is more jazz oriented than his 1993 release and allows for his growth as a performer, arranger, and conductor. Like a Brooks Brothers' suit worn at Mardi Gras, Connick's writing for his big band and full orchestra mixes New Orleans rhythms with crisp, swinging arrangements that call to mind '60s Michel Legrand and Quincy Jones. Nothing Connick has done before can quite prepare you for the screaming trumpets and rollicking second-line-style swing of his leadoff take on "Frosty the Snowman." In fact, most of the classic standards here, including "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Silver Bells," get highly unexpected treatments as on "Santa Clause Is Coming to Town," which is worked up into a funky, brass-band "go-go" dance number. Similarly tasty is "I'll Be Home for Christmas," which not only features some of the best crooning the Will and Grace star has ever done, but also a beautifully modest Count Basie-inspired piano solo. There is also an appealing balance to Harry for the Holidays between songs of Christmas nostalgia and heartfelt ruminations on what the season means in a deeper sense. Throw in four original compositions that touch on Scott Walker-esque orchestrated pop, Tin Pan Alley songcraft, and country — yes, that is the George Jones dueting with Connick on "Nothin' New for the New Year" — and not only do you have one of the best holiday albums in years, but easily the best album of Connick's career.

Biography

Born: 11 September 1967 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

With very few exceptions, the career of Harry Connick, Jr., can be divided in half — his first two albums encompassed straight-ahead New Orleans jazz and stride piano while his later career (which paralleled his rising celebrity status) alternated between more contemporary New Orleans music and pop vocals with a debt to Frank Sinatra. Born in New Orleans on September 11, 1967, Connick grew up the son of two lawyers who owned a record store. After beginning on keyboards at the age of three,...
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