Picks and Pans Review: Harry Connick Jr.

UPDATED 07/18/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/18/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

Occasion: Connick on Piano, Vol. 2

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Big and easy aptly describe this joyful collaboration between two of New Orleans's talented sons. Harry Connick Jr. is the Grammy-winning pianist, singer and actor with a fondness for pop hits of the mid-20th century. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis (Wynton's big brother) spent a few years with Sting, was Jay Leno's first choice to lead The Tonight Show band and now runs his own music label. So what happened when Harry met Branford? In Connick's words, "a musical tête-à-tête."

Indeed, Occasion is a showcase and a showdown of musical thrust and parry. On "Spot" Connick strides along the keyboard, sending high notes trilling and bass chords bouncing to face a throaty tenor sax. Branford's crystalline soprano playing defines the elegiac "Chanson du Vieux Carre." Ever present are the blues like the sly, slow "Win" and its rival "Lose." With its lazy, good-time vibe, "Good to Be Home" typifies this matchup. For fans unaware of Connick's skills or Marsalis's range, Occasion is an event to remember.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Good to Be Home"

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