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Harry Connick, Jr.

Harry Connick, Jr.

Connick is one of those guys you'd love to hate: a fantastically talented singer, composer, and actor who also happens to be rich, famous, and handsome. Problem is, Connick is also a mensch.

When Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, Connick was one of the first celebs to survey the wreckage, and he's spent most of the ensuing months trying to revive his hometown. In September 2005, he helped organize a massive live TV telethon. Last year, he and fellow native son Branford Marsalis launched an effort, with Habitat for Humanity, to construct a "musicians' village" consisting of modestly priced homes for musicians, as well as the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.

Connick's latest efforts are the mostly instrumental Chanson du Vieux Carré and Oh My Nola, an effort to trace the musical history of New Orleans that includes excursions into jazz, funk, brass band, and zydeco. Most of the tracks are covers — Allen Toussaint's "Working in a Coal Mine" gets a nice workout, as does the standard "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" — though Connick includes a few originals. Of these, the obvious standout is "All These People," a bluesy lament about Katrina's harrowing aftermath that makes fine use of gospel belter Kim Burrell.

Connick will be bringing his Big Band to town, which means you can expect the same wide-ranging fare, served up hot, with proceeds to benefit the aforementioned musicians' village. — Steve Almond


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