Harry Connick, Jr. & Branford Marsalis – A Duo Occasion (2005)

by | Aug 10, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Harry Connick, Jr. & Branford Marsalis – A Duo Occasion (2005)

Shot in hi-def at the Ottawa Jazz Festival
Studio: Marsalis Music/Rounder Records 8749600-009
Video: 16:9 widescreen, color
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo
Length: 1 hours 24 minutes
Rating: *****

This world premiere duo performance  helped celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Ottawa Jazz Festival and is a total gas in every way, from beginning to end.  Even if it didn’t feature such top names in jazz today I would lean positively toward a duo like this which doesn’t involve drums – just my personal thing. Branford also plays a lot of soprano sax, which is my favorite of Adolph’s family. The stage is not brightly lit but neither are the images washed out or murky-looking, as on so many jazz videos.  The surround sound is top rate, just as good as the best DTS tracks.  When the audience goes nuts – a frequent occurrence – one really feels that you’re right in the midst of it.  Applause is a wonderful test source for checking out equipment, and the applause here sounds exactly like lots of pairs of hands coming together – which it fails to do on most recordings.

Connick started out his career studying jazz piano with Branford’s father Ellis Marsalis in New Orleans, and has been close to all the Marsalises since childhood, so the kidding around and camaraderie during this concert is not forced show-biz stuff but the genuine thang.  Connick is in quite a different bag here from his vocals-oriented albums. He concentrates on providing some exciting and often amazing interplay with Branford’s sax soloing.  He kicks off the concert with a piano solo on Chattanooga Choo Choo which will be unlike any treatment of that tune you’ve ever heard. The New Orleans “piano professor” style is strong here, but so are a host of other influences.  This is one fantastic ivory-tickler!  Most of the other tunes are originals by Connick except for Occasion and a tribute to soprano saxist Steve Lacy titled… Steve Lacy.

Why would anyone want a boring old CD of the concert when for just a few bucks more you can have this? If you want to listen to it in other environments, just copy the excellent PCM stereo track to a CD-R, deleting your least favorite track so it will fit in 80 minutes if you’re using WAV or AIFF, or convert to high-bit-rate MP3 files if your various CD players handle them.

 – John Henry

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