September 20 2006, by Stephen Holden, New York Times

Photo: Richard Termine for The New York Times Jack Jones is sharing songs, and emotions, at the Oak Room.

Photo: Richard Termine for The New York Times
Jack Jones is sharing songs, and emotions, at the Oak Room.

If there is a more dapper American entertainer than the singer Jack Jones, the name escapes me. (Well, maybe George Hamilton.) As he bounded onto the stage of the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel on Friday evening, Mr. Jones, 68, could have passed for a playboy C.E.O. stepping off a yacht. With his helmet of perfectly groomed, thinning white hair, his classic gentleman’s attire (blue blazer, navy blue polka-dot tie, charcoal-gray trousers and silk pocket square), he made everyone else in the room look shabby.

Mr. Jones’s voice matches his appearance. A supple pop-jazz baritone, it is an impeccably maintained instrument in which perfect intonation coincides with phrasing that seems relaxed but is really calculated to the last syllable and breath. In the four decades since his insipid first hit, “Lollipops and Roses,” it has deepened and acquired layers of texture and shading. On top of that is a surprise ingredient: an upper register (almost a falsetto) into which he suddenly bursts to express a wild, swinging exuberance.

Such extreme polish can be a barrier to intimate communication. But Mr. Jones has learned to create an emotionally compelling dialogue out of the distance between his public and private selves.

On Friday his public self, the supremely confident pop-jazz swinger, and his trio led by the exceptional pianist Tom Garvin, injected a jet-propelled joie de vivre into “She Loves Me,” “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and “Just in Time.”

But it was in his readings of three ballads that Mr. Jones peeled away some of the polish to reveal himself as a man of heart. Singing the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh song “It Amazes Me,” whose narrator is dumbfounded by his partner’s loyalty and devotion, he conveyed the lyrics’ full measure of wonder and gratitude.

The same humility informed his rendition of Leon Russell’s “Song for You,” whose narrator is a performer suffering from the lonely-at-the-top syndrome. To appreciate how deeply Mr. Jones went into these lyrics, it helped to look away when he sang and just listen.

Mr. Jones imbued the third song, “One at a Time,” a little-known ballad by Michel Legrand and Marilyn and Alan Bergman about savoring life’s sweeter moments when they come, with the appreciation of a singer of a certain age, in full command of his powers, who knows in his bones that one of those moments is the present.

Jack Jones appears through Saturday in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212) 419-9331.