Jazz pianist finds ingenious way to correct audience clapping on the wrong beat

31 March 2021, 18:19 | Updated: 31 March 2021, 18:36

Harry Connick Jr audience claps
Harry Connick Jr audience claps. Picture: YouTube

By Kyle Macdonald

Harry Connick Jr masterfully shows us how to discreetly correct your audience and get them clapping on the right beats of the bar. And it’s so clever...

Boogie-woogie enthusiast, jazz pianist, singer and occasional actor Harry Connick Jr. loves to get his audience grooving.

But here’s some footage with a unique moment of musical class. It comes from what appears to be a sort of made-for-TV concert in the late-90s, featuring his upbeat and bluesy song Come By Me.

Harry Connick Jr. is his usual charismatic self though the verses, giving the audience plenty of trademark grins and hair flicks. The crowd is loving it, and enthusiastically clapping along.

Read more: Brains of jazz and classical musicians work differently, study reveals >

But the clapping is the problem. Against the jazzy swing rhythm of the song, the audience is clapping on beats 1 and 3.

In jazz swing, the accents hit on beats 2 and 4. These beats are key in creating that jazzy, bluesy, swinging groove. Seasoned jazzers will often consider clapping, taps, or overt accents on 1 and 3, a percussive faux pas.

Often when clapping along, an enthusiastic audience might start clapping on those forbidden beats, and it certainly means the music doesn’t groove as much as it could.

So, how did Connick respond when it happened during this performance of Come By Me? Watch below as he solos in 4/4 time, but then four bars in (at 40 seconds in), discreetly plays a bar of 5/4.

The addition of an extra beat, now means the audience is clapping on 2 and 4. Genius, and very classy. Take a listen, and see if you can count the moment when it happens.

It’s interesting to hear how, with the audience lured into clapping on the 2 and 4, the music immediately begins to swing more. What Connick did is called ‘rhythmic displacement’, if you want to impress friends at your next party.

Also note the drummer behind the pianist in the video, who immediately raises his arms in triumph to celebrate the pianist’s discreet correction.

“Friends don’t let friends clap on 1 and 3,” says one YouTube user.

But clap how you feel, we think that’s your prerogative. However, maybe don’t be surprised if a soloist chooses to drop in a surprise bar of 5/4 to get that groove to where it needs to be.