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Harry Connick Jr.: That Would Be Me

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Musically speaking, Harry Connick Jr. has shaped a remarkably chameleonic career over the course of three decades: jazz singer and pianist, pop crooner, Hollywood balladeer and Broadway belter, all liberally spiced with distinct Cajun and country influences. So it’s hardly surprising that Connick asks in the liner notes for That Would Be Me, his 26th studio release as leader, “Where to now?”

The answer, apparently, is “everywhere.” He raps, he scats, he pounds, he growls, he purrs. He plays piano, organ, drums, trumpet, trombone, French horn and sax. He wrote most of the arrangements and all 11 songs. While such dexterity is genuinely impressive, this eruptive tour de force emerges more as a jumbled, grandiloquent mélange.

Connick bookends his playlist with “(I Like It When You) Smile” and “Right Where It Hurts,” the sort of overproduced, oversaturated pop meant for arenas. He props up the album’s center with “You Don’t Need a Man,” a high-strutting empowerment anthem that would feel right at home with Shania Twain in Vegas. “(I Do) Like We Do,” “Songwriter” and “(I Think I) Love You a Little Bit” are pleasant if rather jejune confections. Then he turns around and delivers profoundly thoughtful-and blessedly unencumbered-tracks like “Do You Really Need Her,” “You Have No Idea” and “Where Prisoners Drown,” the encroaching gravel in his voice adding considerably to their heartfelt pathos. Each is a fine reminder that an artist as gifted as Connick is best appreciated without all the ornamentation.

Originally Published