Even when he packs a gun, Harry Connick Jr.’s image is boyishly wholesome. A God-fearing, one-woman man (his girlfriend of the last four years is model Jill Goodacre), who favors the word neat, Connick will also admit to a fondness for Christmas caroling. This year, he’s working that door-to-door cheer nationwide with When My Heart Finds Christmas, an album full of chestnuts like ”The Little Drummer Boy,” plus a few originals. In L.A. to tape a one-hour CBS holiday special, the 26-year-old unabashedly enthused over the prospect of watching the show with his family back home in Louisiana on Christmas Eve. ”We’ll be sitting around the set and it’ll be me on the TV,” he drawls. ”That’ll be really neat.”
Like Duke Ellington, Connick manages to coexist in the worlds of pop entertainment (with his Sinatra-inspired crooning bolstered by hunky good looks) and serious jazz (with instrumental albums showcasing his piano playing, which was influenced equally by Thelonious Monk’s off-kilter bebop and the rollicking R&B of his childhood teacher James Booker). His talent has already earned him three platinum albums and two Grammys, but he admits to paying a price for his versatility and success. ”I take flak for being popular every day of my life,” he says without bitterness. ”That’s my job, to be in the public eye and get jeered at. But that’s only part of it. The other 95 percent of the time I’m on stage in front of thousands of people who love that music as much as I do.”
Which is not to say that Connick is artistically satisfied. ”You listen to Monk, Ellington, (Art) Tatum, and Booker. What the hell can I possibly do on the piano, at age 26, that’s up to that level? And as a singer, you listen to Sinatra, Nat Cole, and Dick Haymes—what am I possibly gonna do to top them? So I still got a long way to go.” Did we mention that he’s also modest?