Maybe it's because of that infamous remark he made comparing himself to Frank Sinatra, but Harry Connick Jr. has enormous popularity and almost no hip/critical cachet. We'd maintain, however, that the folks who've been getting down with the cocktail trend -- the ones who've been snapping up Henry Mancini reissues and working on their outfits for the next Combustible Edison show -- have no excuse not to listen to Connick, because he's been doing the same stuff for years. Unlike the Stings and Boltons and the other modern-day, easy-listening crooners who descend from rock, Connick proudly presents himself as a throwback. And while he'll never be mistaken for Sinatra (unless you mean Frank Jr.), he gets the old-fashioned romance across quite nicely, thank you. But all the above has nothing to do with Connick's last album and tour. On the recent album She (Columbia), Connick made a downright perverse move by hiring the Meters' rhythm section, picking up a guitar, and fashioning himself as a funkateer; a followup Great Woods gig left a few jaws dropping in disbelief and made fans wonder about his next move. Meanwhile he wins in our jazz category, though, strictly speaking, he hasn't worked in that format for some time.
-- Brett Milano