Jack Jones

July 2, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

Feinstein’s at Loews Regency  –  June 26 – 30

“I know your image of me is what I hope to be.”

When Jack Jones sang that line from Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” early in his program at Feinstein’s, I felt he was confessing something expressly to me. I have often found myself defending Jones’s image and talents. His recorded voice, especially in the early decades of his long career, has had for me an extremely pleasing sound: nimble, warm, and relaxed. Some people have found him to have an off-puttingly cheesy or “lounge-y” performance style, and he has at times certainly projected the image of a slick casino singer. In later years, however, Jones directed his career in the direction of jazz and cabaret. He was a familiar act at the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room. And now, with the close of that venue, he’s found a new Manhattan home at Feinstein’s.

After some opening night difficulties with the opening number (Gerard Kenny’s “I Am a Singer”), Jones created good will with his listeners, beginning with “A Song for You,” which he tenderly and intimately delivered. His singing may not be as effortless as it was in earlier days. There are some strained-sounding notes in his upper register, and some Tony Bennett-style huskiness at points. And in his next selection, Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” he literally squeaked. This happened, aptly, during the phrase “wake up to reality.” Jones seems to have done just that—to have come fully to terms with the “new normal’ of his 70-something-year-old singing voice. He seems, in fact, to have unapologetically embraced the changes. He utilizes those almost cacophonous sounds with which his voice now erupts as unlikely yet often effective hues on his vocal color-wheel. It may be a sow’s-ear-to-silk-purse kind of strategy but it works surprisingly well, and it’s admirable that he doesn’t play things safe.

He performed some songs—including Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s “People”—at what seemed an impossibly leisurely pace. This allowed him to savor each word, every note. On the phrase “in the world,” he rejected the Streisand-ish “wuhhld,” and instead chewed the consonants with gripped molars, making the note sound like rocks caught in a blender and/or Elaine Stritch: “wrrrrld.” On the word “feeling,” he surprised with a leap to his falsetto range. He followed the creeping “People” with a racing jazz-waltz version of Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” emitting a jolting wail during the phrase “too hot not to cool down.” Some of these effects seemed slightly weird, but they certainly kept listeners tuned in.

Among the highlights of the evening was a medley of “You’ve Changed” (Bill Carey, Carl Fischer) and “Round Midnight” (Thelonius Monk, Cootie Williams, Bernie Hanighen), featuring a sensitive turn by saxophonist Houston Person. I also particularly enjoyed the thumping, hipster-ish treatment of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)”.

Jones impressed with his versatility. He sang two of his pop hits, “Wives and Lovers” (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) and “‘Love Boat’ Theme” (Charles Fox, Paul Williams). He performed a robust gospel-style “Games People Play” (Joe South). And toward the end of the program he displayed his musical-theatre chops by singing two numbers from Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion’s score for Man of La Mancha, including the “The Impossible Dream (The Quest).” To get into character, he took off his jacket and mussed his white mane: The Sands meets Stanislavski.

No way around it: There remains more than a little of the saloon-singing Good Old Boy in Jones’s onstage persona. Before performing “Wives and Lovers,” he acknowledged the lyric’s notorious anti-feminist bent, but quipped, “It was my hit, and I’m gonna sing it till I die.” (The line earned him a big hand.) On three occasions during the evening, Jones meandered around the audience, taking stops to serenade individual tables. You kind of wish he’d have gotten beyond that sort of thing. But it’s like Liza and spangles: What’s the harm in it, really? What matters more is Jones’s ability to connect with a lyric and to manipulate his voice in order to explore a song’s emotional nuances. This makes him a performer worthy of continued attention.

At Feinstein’s Jones had good support from—in addition to saxophonist Person—a cluster of solid musicians: pianist and musical director Lou Forestieri, bassist Chris Colangelo, drummer Kendall Kay, and guitarist Patrick Tuzzolimo. On the swinging “Alright, Okay, You Win” (Sidney Wyche, Mayme Watts), Tuzzolimo also contributed a passage of scat singing that was winningly cheeky.


Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Mark Dundas Wood is an arts/entertainment journalist and dramaturg. In addition to reviewing for BistroAwards.com, he contributes regularly to theaterscene.net and clydefitchreport.com. Other reviews and articles have appeared in American Theatre and Back Stage. As a dramaturg, he has worked with New Professional Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

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