a his records, butl
. one hundredth of
myselfa little. I am a singer, but I’m also a piano player, and the way I sing and play are two completely different styles. By doing one uncluttered. jazz album where I play as part ofa group, and the other a big-band affair where I’m up-front crooner, I was trying to document those two distinct styles.
He may have moved away from singing standards, but he certainly hasn’t moved away from echoing Frank. Admitting to a preference for “lyrics that are about as poetic as you can get, without losing the song element‘. Connick comes across as a shrewd, well-balanced figure, aware ofthe traditional vein he is mining and proud ofhis musical heritage. His success was not of the overnight variety: he may be only 23, but he has been singing and performing for fifteen years. Born and raised in New Orleans. Harry grew up with the colourful musical diversity of that area. and was always attracted to the city‘s endemic jazz-boogie style.
‘It was all there for me,‘ he remembers. ‘My parents were both lawyers, so we were pretty well off. but they also ran a record store and, right from as early as I can recall, they never stopped encouraging my musical interests. I began playing the-piano when I was three, and I remember playing the National Anthem at my father’s swearing-in ceremony when he became District Attorney. I must have been about six at the time. I made my first record when I was in fourth grade, playing piano and singing for a local dixieland group. I knew then that this was the career for me. . .‘
After winning several classical piano contests, Harry moved to New York when he was 18, rapidly being noticed and signed up by Columbia Records and recording his debut album in one afternoon. His second album took it’s title from his age when he
“0lcourse ’5‘ I
to be compared to Sinatra. We have the same vocal range and I own all
don’tthink I’ve even
recorded it — 20. Real success came, though, in ’89 with the soundtrack album and a warmly recieved national tour. His Columbia product-management department were quick to make the most of Connick’s old-fashioned blend of pzazz and slick delivery, packaging him as the ghost of the creatively dead ol’ blue eyes and actively inviting the Sinatra comparisons. Interestingly, Connick himselfis at great pains to avoid discussing the influence upon his craft of the man whom he so obviously imitates; in conversation he steps gingerly around the subject, admitting only to ‘Louis Armstrong — he started young too’ as a formative inﬂuence. Although he will agree under duress that: ‘Of course it’s nice to be compared to Sinatra. We have the same vocal range and I own all his records, but I don’t think I’ve even one hundredth of his talent’. But there is no doubting Connick’s debt to Frank Sinatra; he has self-consciously, but adeptly stepped into the great crooner’s considerable shoes.
There is the obvious danger of Connick losing his own individual identity by filling such a stereotypical mould, but — whether in academic essays or a mad woman’s tears —- it’s the allure established in the blueprint, and not any finer complications, that provides the maximum effect for the crooner mode. A listen to a Connick album might be a trip down memory lane rather than a voyage of discovery, but there’s a substantial market for memories. It has been said of Sinatra the he ‘is an original, like Shakespeare was an original, like Van Gogh was an original. There will never be another.’ Try telling that to Harry and his marketing men.
Harry Connick Junior plays the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow on Friday I 7.
THEY DID IT FRANK’S
In recent years, many artists have earned an honest iarthlng ortwo by deliberately inhabiting Sinatra’s copyrighted white-crooner persona. The unlikely ligure oi Vic Reeves is at it as we write, bringing surreal irony to the nation’s chart with his Matt Munro (who was Sinatra minus the personality anyway) inspired ‘Born Free'. The chameleon-like David Bowie, who’ll turn his hand to any style going, bad a couple at brushes with Sinatradom, iirstly in 1976 with his ‘Station To Station’ thin white duke gulse, and more recently with the unashamed crooner-inﬂuenced Let’s Dance World TOUL
Sid Vicious, clad in tuxedo and biker boots, looked and sounded nothing like Frank but belched his way through a punk version oi the Sinatra-patented ‘My Way’ in the lilm The Great Rock And Roll Swindle to earn a ghoulish, posthumous hit. The Gypsy Kings look even less like Sinatra than Sid Vicious, but they had a minor hit last year with the same song. In the early ‘eighties, Joe Jackson - he at the dome lorehead and ill litting pinstripes- semi-successlully reinvented the youthlul blue eyes pose with his ‘Jumpin’ Jive’ set.
Sting had an awkward go at crooning on ‘Spread A Little Happiness’, taken irom the lilm Brimstone And Treacle but ended up sounding more like Peter Skellern than Mr Sinatra. Hick Astley's voice was compared (presumably by deal people) to Sinatra’s but in tact sounded more like a loghorn. And Frank himsell was at it in 1989, reinventing his own persona and scoring a surprise hit with the re-released ‘Hew York, New York’, the track that’s had many an ottice party reveller chorusing out at tune.
Scotland is currently spoiled lor choice when it comes to Sinatra-soundalikes. Hue and Cry’s Pat Kane, pronounced (in this very organ, no less) ‘the best white crooner in the world right now’ by his little brother Greg, is probably up there with Harry
’ ConnickJnr. where technical prowess .‘ and the ability to deliver a lyric is
‘ concerned. Tireless sell-publicist
Craig McMurdo, at That Swing Thang,
- has conironted many an Edinburgh
; student-tippler with his stick Sinatra
I impersonation - his idiosyncratic art is currently on display at Auld Heekie's
I Counting House. Another Edinburgh
man, Paul Ellis, is currently touring the US cabaret circuit with his alarmingly accurate Frank impressions. The much acclaimed Vince Jones — Glasgow born but now resident in Australia — has carved himsell a rich career in jazz circles through mixing his trumpet-playing talent with a penchant lor smoochy crooner numbers that Big
Frank would kill tor. And then, at coure, :
there’s Connick Jnr. . . Sinatra-much imitated, never bettered? These are just a lew who have tried. (Paul Hullah)
The List 17:30 May 11