Harry Connick, Jr.: Your Songs

Last we heard from Harry Connick Jr., he was firing on all cylinders with the simultaneous release of Oh My Nola and Chanson du Vieux Carré, his twin-engine, high-octane homage to his hurricane-ravaged hometown. So it’s initially disconcerting to hear him take such a dramatic U-turn, downshifting to easy-glide for 14 covers that run a smooth gamut from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Bacharach & David. Connick’s widely stated intent was to indeed change gears and craft an album that focused on vocals.

Much has been made of his unprecedented willingness to cede a degree of artistic control by collaborating with seasoned gold miner Clive Davis. Yes, Davis’ fingerprints are clearly evident, notably on the pop orientation of the playlist and the shifting of the needle away from jazz and toward easy listening. But Connick maintained controlling interest, writing all of the arrangements and orchestrations, overruling Davis’ objection of certain tunes (notably “Some Enchanted Evening,” easily the album’s best track) and encouraging longtime pals and frequent collaborators Wynton and Branford Marsalis to add guest solos on three tracks.

Connick opens with “All the Way” and closes with “Mona Lisa,” songs that rank among the most beloved and familiar of the Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole canons. They are fitting bookends, since Your Songs is, stylistically and atmospherically, reminiscent of the now-classic albums that defined the Sinatra and Cole sounds throughout the late ’50s and early ’60s. It may not be what Connick’s hardcore jazz fans expect-or want. Nor, as he has firmly averred, is it a groove he intends to get stuck in. But it is an astute adaptation of a durable blueprint, constructed by a musical architect who has never settled for cookie-cutter replication, and likely never will.