American Idol Judges 2015

American Idol is back for another season, with judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr., searching for the best-of-the-best to compete in Hollywood Week.

Keith is my favorite of the three Idol judges with his quirky exuberance and Australian accent. Jennifer is just as gorgeous as when People magazine chose her as The Most Beautiful Woman in 2011. And then there’s Scary Harry…

Harry Connick, Jr. puts Simon Cowell to shame with his schoolmarm scowl and reputation for being almost impossible to please. I’ll admit that I didn’t care for him last season, especially with his tendency to steal every scene and overshadow my favorite judge. The heavy-handed criticism didn’t have the fun-factor of Simon’s, where you were always waiting for that memorable scratching of the face with the middle finger. But once Scary Harry mellowed out a bit, he started growing on me, and he’s actually smiling this year.

Once the singing competition swings into high gear, Happy Harry will surely revert to Scary Harry again, and it’s no wonder. Few can compete with Harry’s musical background.

Harry Connick, Jr. was only three years old when he started learning the keyboard, and by the age of five, Harry was playing piano publicly. By age ten, Harry was recording with a New Orleans jazz band. How do you top that? How do you impress a man whose success dates back to childhood?

Harry’s childhood mentors included James Booker III — the jazzy rhythm and blues musician who earned the nickname Black Liberace. James was flamboyant, gay, and the best one-eyed piano genius that New Orleans ever produced. His piano skills were legendary.

Ellis Marsalis, Jr. was another mentor of young Harry, and Ellis was all about the jazz, his talent earning a coveted place in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In spite of his own personal talent, he preferred to teach others, and Harry Connick, Jr. was among his students. Other students included Terence Oliver Blanchard playing jazz trumpet, Nicholas Payton playing jazz trumpet and electric piano, and Ellis’ own four sons.

Best known as a jazz pianist and singer, Harry Connick, Jr. is just as comfortable playing swing, big band music, pop music, and his own brand of jazz-funk. He’s also a songwriter and actor, both in movies and on Broadway, starring with greats such as Sandra Bullock in Hope Floats. This musical whirlwind even invented an interactive, computerized sheet music system.

Of course, all of this is lost on me, not being a jazz afficionado. The closest I’ve come to embracing jazz is the music of Louis Armstrong with his gravelly voice, scat singing, and lively trumpet tunes. His songs Hello Dolly, When You’re Smiling, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, and What a Wonderful World are some of my all-time favorite songs.

Louis Armstrong did not sing When You’re Smiling with Scary Harry in mind as an American Idol judge, however. The Idol hopefuls have a monumental job just to get Harry to crack a smile, let alone vote them through to Hollywood Week. But oh the sweetness of gaining that vote, just as in the days of Simon Cowell.

In between auditions, Happy Harry is all smiles, cavorting around the room like a little kid, being silly and goofy and all the prankster. As long as he lets Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez share in the spotlight, American Idol 2015 ought to be a fun season!

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    And check out these Cool Kids:
    Watch & listen to some neat Jazz stuff!
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