February 18, 1988 By Stephen Holden, The New York Times

JACK JONES is a crafty saloon singer with a deeper feel for jazz and a more sophisticated sense of humor than such signature songs as ”The Impossible Dream” and ”The Love Boat” might lead one to believe. In the history of pop crooning, he stands as the stylistic link between Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow, with stronger leanings toward the former. Punching out pop standards, Mr. Jones can be almost as brawlingly visceral as Mr. Sinatra in his swinging mode. The more contemporary aspect of his musical personality surfaces in pop-rock ballads like ”I Am a Singer,” his newest album’s title song, which is a stylistic clone of Mr. Manilow’s 1975 hit ”I Write the Songs.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Jones, appearing for the first time in Manhattan in more than a decade, showed both aspects of his sensibility as he opened a two-week engagement at the Ballroom (253 West 28th Street). The singer was in strong voice, exploiting an unusually wide vocal range throughout a program that ran from aggressive pop-jazz to smooth pop-rock. His adept straddling of stylistic boundaries was underscored by the arrangements of his back-up trio, in which his pianist, Tennyson Stephens, alternated between electric and acoustic pianos.

Mr. Jones was particularly impressive singing tough pop-jazz renditions of ”There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” ”Alright, Okay, You Win” and ”Just One of Those Things.” On a more romantic note, he offered a tautly phrased, smoothly intoned rendition of ”Love Dance,” a ballad by Paul Williams and Ivan Lins that is rapidly achieving the status of a latter-day standard.

The opening night show ended on a touching note as the singer invited his father, the 79-year-old longtime actor Allan Jones, to join him in singing ”The Impossible Dream.” In a quavering but hearty voice, the father wrested the song away from his son and delivered it with a ferocious, chilling intensity.