The buzz got out that Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis, in town to bolster the Habitat for Humanity’s Musicians’ Village, might sit in at Bob French’s Monday night gig. “There’s a 95 percent chance,” French said earlier that day. Those were pretty good odds, especially since the two are heard on the drummer’s new album due out in mid-April. The music community responded showing up in force and sure enough, the pianist and saxophonist breezed in for the second set along with a small entourage that included Harry Connick, Sr. and producer Tracey Freeman.
With this crew of old friends, the show was equal parts hilarity and fine music. It started out with a swinging version of “St. Louis Blues,” with Connick making the best of the small electric keyboard and Marsalis blowing soprano saxophone. Traditional jazz was on the menu with the group offering “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans” and “Didn’t He Ramble,” punctuated with French’s storytelling about the old days and friendly jibing between the guys. At French’s insistence, Connick did a medley of numbers associated with James Booker, and Connick showed he’s the man on “Sunny Side of the Street,” “Junco Partner” and “Please Send Me Someone To Love.” Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, who is also on the CD, joined in to play some sweet horn fills alongside Marsalis. Then it was time for church with Connick offering up a gospel-drenched rendition of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” with French acting as the preacher. Everyone was also glad to see pianist Henry Butler, in town to work on his Road Home application, and bassist Richard Moten, both of whom sat in later in the set. Nights like these—oh, and how about Dr. John playing with French on Christmas?—make you know why you’re in New Orleans.