June 6, 2013  |  Music

Harry Connick, Jr., is one of my absolute favorite musicians. He’s really got it all — sultry singing voice, agile piano playing, slick Southern style, affable personality — and did I mention stunning good looks?

But really, above all that, he is truly an incredibly well-rounded musician. And he truly embodies every positive character that could be ascribed to the word “musician,” or at least every positive character to which the rest of us aspire.

I recently came across this video of Mr. Connick and I just haven’t been able to stop sharing it. The actual performance on the video is from quite a few years ago. He’s playing “Come By Me,” which is a catchy little tune from his 1999 album of the same name.

Before I say any more, just watch the first minute or so of this video:

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Do you notice anything? Does anything seem wrong to you? What do you think of the people in the audience, are they hip or square?

Here’s the thing. The audience is clapping on beats 1 and 3. Those are lovely beats, and in classical art music — and , they are usually the most important. But in the land of jazz, it is all about beat 2 and 4. Those are the beats that make the tune swing and feel good. There is practically no way that you can be a cool hip jazzer if you’re emphasizing beats 1 and 3. Experiment with this, turn on your favorite jazz tune — maybe Frank Sinatra? If you clap or stomp or just lean on beats 1 and 3, you could change your entire perception of the song and how it feels. And it’s not just jazz. Turn on The Beatles or your favorite rock band — they’re emphasizing beats 2 and 4 as well.

Now, Mr. Connick is far too polite of a guy to stop his concert and try to explain all of this to his adoring audience. He’s playing his song, and the entire crowd is clapping very enthusiastically on beats 1 and 3. When he’s singing the song, there’s not much he can do. But as soon as he gets to the piano solo, something incredible happens — at about 0:40, Mr. Connick adds one more beat to his piano solo and turns the entire thing around. Instantly, the entire crowd is clapping on 2 and 4, like seasoned music enthusiasts, and they don’t even know it! They didn’t have to feel confused or embarrassed — and all of a sudden the music feels great! You can even see the drummer raising his arms to cheer in the background. Watch it again and see if you can catch when it happens.

The brilliance of this, to me, is not just that the audience is now clapping on the “correct” beats. It’s that Mr. Connick was able to make this happen seamlessly, effortlessly, and without missing — wait for it — a beat.