2010/10/27 by Stephen Holden – The New York Times

Matthew Murphy for The New York Times Jack Jones opened his new show on Tuesday at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel.

Matthew Murphy for The New York Times
Jack Jones opened his new show on Tuesday at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel.

Everyone is familiar with the AIDS charity anthem, “That’s What Friends Are For,” sung by an all-star coalition, Dionne and Friends, that became a No. 1 single in 1986. But how many remember another song with the same title, written by Paul Williams, that was a minor 1972 hit for B. J. Thomas?
That catchy nostalgic ballad was the opening and closing number in the sweeping, nearly two-hour career retrospective of the singer Jack Jones at Tuesday’s opening-night performance of his three-week engagement at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel.

Friends are like warm clothes
In the night air
Best when they’re old
And we miss them the most when they’re gone,

Mr. Jones sang to a packed house of longtime fans. (The couple sitting next to me claimed to have seen 200 Jones performances.)
Those lyrics evoked the vanishing breed of pop-jazz crooner of which Mr. Jones and Tony Bennett remain the great survivors. Mr. Jones, now 72, draws the same kind of well-dressed sophisticated audiences that used to attend the annual appearances at the defunct Michael’s Pub of his friend Mel Torme, who died 11 years ago at 73. Mr. Jones also mentioned another longtime friend, Robert Goulet, who died three years ago at the same age.
Snowy haired, tanned and dapper, he was accompanied on piano by Mike Renzi (who often worked with Torme), Chris Colangelo on bass and Kendall Kay on drums. Together they delivered a kind of master class in traditional nightclub performance: suave but intimate, alternately preening and humble, seemingly casual but seamlessly professional. Because the Oak Room isn’t a glittery show room, the distance between the performer and the audience was all but erased.
The many sides of Mr. Jones’s musical personality had their hearing. The romantic balladeer strode to the fore in “People,” “Somewhere” and the Domenico Modugno ballad “Dio, Come Ti Amo.” “Just One of Those Things,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “All or Nothing at All,” swung confidently. In “Love Makes the Changes,” an obscure tune by Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman that is the title song of his new self-produced album, he became a rough-edged blues belter.
With the conspicuous exception of his glutinous early hit, “Lollipops and Roses” (outfitted with jazz chords), most of the old songs responded to Mr. Jones’s thoughtful outlook, which tinges everything with the sense of a man taking a moral inventory of his life. In the concert’s most telling moment, during “Somewhere,” Mr. Jones hesitated an extra half-second before singing the word “forgiving,” with a pained gravity. And that is pop maturity.