The Connick croon remains supple and lightweight, and his voice still has the...
Martin Longley 2007
Its US title is Oh, My Nola, a reference to New Orleans that might not be caught immediately in the UK. The new umbrella gives a more succinct idea of where Connick's at for this summation and celebration of the beleaguered Crescent City. At first glance, this appears to be a completely predictable spread of hoary old favourites that just about anyone would choose as a personification of New Orleans. What justification is there to re-visiting such numbers, apart from mopping up in the aftermath of the flood?
Well, that's obviously a part of it, and Connick will be donating a chunky portion of his royalties to the No Habitat Musicians Village, a housing project set up in partnership with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who also happens to release Harry's more specialist recordings on his own label.
Connick arranges and conducts his big band crew, but also breaks its components down for some strategically-placed small-unit features. The album opens with an approachably poppy reading of "Working In The Coal Mine", but Connick has been increasing his jazz authenticity quotient in recent years, whilst still managing to flex his hearthrobby ticket-selling muscle. After this opening strut, the songs start to get steeped deeper into those old-fashioned gumbo-juices. The Connick croon remains supple and lightweight, and his voice still has the freshness of youth, not yet developing any grizzled qualities that might normally suit these songs. It's well-attuned to the vintage, old-time velvety radio tone adopted by some of these cuts.
It's not all slick horn sections, either. On "Let Them Talk...", he cuts back the blowing ranks, and slides in the strings, then "Careless Love" is an intimate first-take of an impromptu trio version. Conversely, it took Connick fifteen shots to crack "Someday", a Smiley Lewis tune from the 1950s. It was worth it in the end, though. "Jambalaya" eschews the expected Cajun bounce, going for a straight jazzy parade, whilst "Hello, Dolly" features a long instrumental introduction before the big band kicks in.
Connick also contributes several of his own songs, managing to shade them into the general New Orleans flow. "Oh, My Nola" employs a traditional street parade line-up, complete with banjo and spirited shout-outs, while "All These People" is the best, a duet with Kim Burrell that directly addresses the flood's aftermath. Here he makes his own songs shuffle into the vintage company with surprising ease.