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MUSIC : Connick's 'Funk Tour' Features All-Star Lineup : The crooner's band hails from his hometown of New Orleans. They'll perform at the Santa Barbara County Bowl.

July 28, 1994|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Harry is a name that never dies, but never really catches on. It does continue to be the inspiration for bad jokes in the fourth grade, where cruelty has a surer foothold than mathematics.

"Yeah, I got the same thing when I was a kid, but my dad ended up being the D. A. and I ended up as a musician," said crooner Harry Connick Jr., who will be stopping by the tree-lined Santa Barbara County Bowl on Tuesday night. "It seems like Harrys end up in positions of power, sort of like Harry Truman, I guess."

In spite of the years growing up with the dreaded name, Harry Connick has managed to become the most famous Harry in New Orleans. Connick has clearly caught on. Does that mean that Connick, who was married earlier this year, will be passing the family moniker along someday?

"There probably won't be a Harry III," he said. "The III puts a lot of pressure on a kid."

Connick, one of the most versatile artists since the late Harry Nilsson, must know a little something about pressure. Still twentysomething, he has accumulated three Grammys, five Gold and three Platinum albums. He has released instrumental albums, jazz albums, big band albums, traditional classics and original material. He even had a hit in 1993 with Christmas music. So what's next for Connick, a punk album?

"Could be," the singer said during a recent phone interview. "At this point, I'm going to start doing the kind of music I grew up with. Right now, we're just gonna do this tour and take it day by day."

Connick, who calls his gig "The Funk Tour," has assembled an all-star band of players from his hometown of New Orleans, a place that seems to be in little danger of running out of musicians.

"Man, I dunno, but I've been trying to figure that one out. Somewhere back in history, people started playing, and it just spread and spread to where there are countless people playing, and there's always new stuff coming along. Personally, I just want to get better."

Connick and the band will, among other things, be planning cuts off his newest release, "She," which is unlike anything he's done. "She" features a variety of styles from rock to swing to soulful ballads.

Connick wrote all the music, and Ramsey McLean is to blame for the clever lyrics. But this was hardly your Laurel and Hardy or Astaire and Rogers or frank 'n' beans sort of association.

"He's writing poetry all the time," Connick said. "When I was doing this album, I called him and told him to send me some lyrics. They came in the mail so we don't really even collaborate."

Connick seems to be one of those guys for whom blue skies and green lights are the norm; everything he tries seems to work. He is always working; he has lots of fans, a fan club and dedicated parents, both of whom are lawyers.

While growing up, Connick was encouraged by his parents, who also co-owned a record store, to pursue a career in music. Young Harry was good enough (or had the connections) to play at his father's swearing-in ceremony when he was 6. He made his recording debut before he was 10, then studied music in New York City at Hunter College and the New York School of Music.

"Oh man, I knew what I wanted to do since I was 3 years old. I always wanted to be a musician," Connick said. "You have to practice, and it helps to meet the right people--there's a lot of luck involved. Get as good as you can on your instrument so you'll have the right ammunition when the time comes."

He's been involved in a number of film projects, including singing classics on the soundtrack of "When Harry Met Sally." Connick has a single in the latest Jim Carrey vehicle, "Mask." He's also acted in a couple of movies, including "Little Man Tate" with Jodie Foster and a World War II tale, "Memphis Belle."

"I relished the experience, and I'd love to do it again," he said, referring to the story about the B-17 pilots' final bombing raid over Germany. "It was a new dimension for me. We got to meet all the original guys that flew the mission on the set. All of them were there and they were all in their 70s. Could you imagine being 18 or 20 and dropping all those bombs, blowing people away?"

Details

* WHAT: Harry Connick Jr.

* WHEN: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

* WHERE: Santa Barbara County Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St.

* HOW MUCH: $40.50, $35.50, $30.50, $28.

* FYI: 568-2695.

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