October 2001
courtesy Columbia Records

With the simultaneous releases of '30' and 'Songs I Heard', Harry Connick, Jr. has again found new ways to express himself artistically, while demonstrating the craftsmanship and work ethic of a virtuoso musician at the top of his game. The opening of 'Thou Shalt Not' this fall marks Connick's debut as a composer of lyrics and music, orchestrater, and arranger for a major Broadway production. These projects add to a rich and multi-faceted body of work earning Connick the well deserved reputation as one of the most accomplished young composers and performers of our time.

"It’s a fun record, but it’s definitely for adults, I take these songs seriously," says Connick of 'Songs I Heard,' an innovative take on works from classic movies and shows. The album is at times endearing, as when the familiar melody of the 'Mary Poppins' classic "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is infused with the energy of a Mardi Gras street band, and at times poignant, as on the "Annie" ballad "Maybe." Connick breathes magic into the gem "Jitterbug," originally from the musical "Wizard of Oz" but omitted from the famous movie. Throughout, 'Songs I Heard' betrays the clever arrangements, and captivating vocals that are Connick's trademark.

'30' is the fourth in a succession of recordings that capture Connick's music at its most personal and improvisatory, joining the albums '11,' '20' and '25,' named for his age at the time of recording. Connick explains "There's a conceptual theme that runs through these recordings. It captures a moment in time, it’s like a snapshot of where I'm coming from musically." Beginning with the carefree jump blues of "Walkin'" the stripped down recording is an exercise in dynamics, as Connick shows off expert piano and vocal skills with subtle flair. Connick is joined by the late gospel singer Rev. James Moore on "There’s Always One More Time," and trumpet master Wynton Marsalis on "I’ll Only Miss Her (When I Think of Her)." From the elegant "New Orleans" to the narrative and playful "Don't Fence Me In" each of the fourteen tracks is a window into Connick’s artistry.

Harry Connick Jr., continues to push boundaries and redefine success, no small feat in a career marked by four multi-platinum and three platinum albums, three gold albums, two Grammy awards, and Emmy, Cable Ace, Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. 2001 marks yet another milestone as Connick makes his debut as a Broadway composer, lyricist, and arranger with his work on 'Thou Shalt Not,' collaborating with Tony award winning director and choreographer Susan Stroman, Connick has written the entire score and lyrics for this adaptation of Emile Zola's novel "Thérése Raquin," running this fall at New York’s Plymouth theater.

Given the pace of his work and the extent of his accomplishments, it is easy to forget that Connick is still a young man in his early thirties. Growing up in New Orleans, Connick's developing skills were honed in studies with piano legends Ellis Marsalis and James Booker and informal jam sessions with childhood friend Wynton Marsalis. Connick first performed publicly at age five and appeared on his first jazz recording at age ten, becoming a fixture at clubs in the French Quarter. Within a year of moving to New York at the age of 18, he had recorded his self titled major-label debut for Columbia, featuring a jazz trio. His next album, '20,' introduced audiences to his confident voice.

Connick’s introduction to mass audiences came when director Rob Reiner asked him to contribute the score to the 1989 smash 'When Harry Met Sally.' The project marked two firsts for Connick, his first big-band recording and his first multi-platinum album. The following year, he released two albums simultaneously, both showcasing original songs. 'Lofty's Roach Soufflé' and 'We Are In Love' topped the jazz charts and crossed over to the pop charts as well, the latter going on to sell over 2 million copies.

With the release of the platinum-selling 'She' in 1994, Harry began his exploration of the New Orleans funk music he grew up with, and on the 1996 'Star Turtle' pushed this funk sound to new creative heights. In 1997, Harry released the ravishing 'To See You', a seventy-five minute set of original love songs. That fall and winter, Connick toured the nation with a full symphony orchestra to perform the music from the album. His skills as a songwriter, vocalist, and bandleader demonstrated continuing evolution on his 1999 release 'Come By Me,' "easily the crowning achievement of his career" according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Connick’s acting career has continued to burgeon, with upcoming projects promising even more starring roles. His film debut came at the age of 22 in the 1990 drama "Memphis Belle," and during the 90's Connick went on to star in such varied and acclaimed productions as "Hope Floats," "Little Man Tate," and "Independence Day," one of the highest grossing films of all time. Also, his performance in the ABC production of the musical "South Pacific," earned accolades as "a perfect fit of actor and role" said the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Connick's film work continues apace, including starring roles in the upcoming dark comedy "Life Without Dick" opposite Sarah Jessica Parker, and John Grisham’s original movie screenplay, the touching "Mickey," set for release in 2002. This fall marks the release of Linda Yellen’s improvisational film "The Simian Line" starring Connick opposite an ensemble cast that includes Lynn Redgrave, William Hurt, Eric Stoltz, Tyne Daly and Cindy Crawford.

Despite being at the center of so much attention, Connick has never been content to rest on past triumphs. "I feel lucky to be able to do this for a living," he says. "And the success if anything brings more challenges, as I work with so many talented people and just try to keep up." But as Connick pushes the boundaries of jazz, popular music, movies and Broadway on his most creative projects to date, it is clear that Harry Connick, Jr. sets his own standard, and proves himself daily as a truly gifted artist and entertainer.

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