Among the special moments in Harry Connick Jr.’s sold-out concert Friday night at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery was a silky father-and-son duet of “Bye Bye Blackbird” featuring Harry Connick Sr.
The surprise appearance by the spry, 87-year-old former New Orleans district attorney and part-time nightclub singer underscored the familial bond that provided a foundation for Connick Jr.’s stellar career as a singer, pianist, composer and actor.
“My dad sounds good tonight,” Connick Jr. said proudly, adding, “I want to be him. He’s my hero.”
“Bye Bye Blackbird” was one of many highlights in a more-than-two-hour concert by the 45-year-old entertainer and his 13-piece band. The handsome, high-spirited New Orleans native mixed jazz, big band, gospel, blues, swing, funk and even a little country in a show that felt like a big, boisterous backyard summer party.
Connick, who performed a second sold-out show Saturday night, rarely missed a chance to exploit a humorous moment or share an unusual story (like the one about New Orleans musician “Uncle” Lionel Batiste’s funeral last year, in which the body was dressed in its usual finery and displayed upright at a local funeral home).
But Connick’s humor never overshadowed the music. To the delight of fans, he demonstrated his broad range of musical skills by playing piano, organ, trumpet, drums and Clavinet.
And his enthusiasm was infectious. During a version of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” the audience sang along — everyone at first, then by gender and age at Connick’s urging.
Among the stars in his band were longtime trombonist Lucien Barbarin (featured on “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”) and gospel/bossa nova guitarist Jonathan Dubose Jr.
Connick opened his show with “A Song in My Heart,” followed later by a soaring “On a Clear Day.” The funeral march “Oh! Didn’t He Ramble” and the 1930s standard “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” were stretched to showcase the band’s talents.
Connick sang beautifully on a string-laden version of the country-gospel favorite “The Old Rugged Cross” and later the classic “The Way You Look Tonight.” The gospel hymn “When the Saints Go Marching In” was performed with the gusto of a Dixieland band.
Before closing with the poignant title song to his current album, “Every Man Should Know,” Connick reflected on his first concert at Chateau Ste. Michelle in the ‘90s, recalling the excitement he felt at the sight of hundreds of fans streaming into the venue to see him.
On Friday, he was still feeling it. “I’m deeply honored that you came,” he told the crowd.