March 30 2002, by Bruce Fessier, The Desert Sun

Ten years ago, an argument could be made to elect Barry Manilow and Jack Jones as poster boys for the terminally unhip. Manilow was lampooned for “AM” songs like “Copacabana” in an “FM” era. Jones was mocked for his recording of the over-the-top theme from TV’s “Love Boat.”
But now, both must be acknowledged as master craftsmen who are vital to this desert with their community involvement.
Barry, who lives in Palm Springs, was the surprise guest at the Kraft Nabisco corporate party associated with that little LPGA event going on this week. He followed in the footsteps of past surprise performers Celine Dion and Michael Bolton.
Dion, who golfed in the pro-am, sang five songs to recorded tracks, and Bolton, another golfer, did basically the same. But Barry performed a full show — no doubt similar to the one he just did at Radio City Music Hall.
Only 754 people watched him in the PS Convention Center, and the corporate crowd was more reserved than a room full of New Yorkers, whom Barry likened to “energy bunnies.” But Barry worked his tail off. His voice was a bit hoarse, but he’s a veteran technician who knows how to work through a cold and still sound evocative.
He entered onto a dark stage and spread his arms when the lights went up as if to say, “It’s me!” Then he launched into an exhaustive medley of big production numbers with his five-piece rhythm and 10-piece horn section, starting with “Ready to Take A Chance Again” and “Daybreak.” After pausing to catch his breath, he got back into it with his inspirational anthem, “Looks Like We Made It” and his theme song that anticipated the neo-swing movement, “American Bandstand.”
He didn’t slow down until his seventh song, when he went to his grand piano to sing, “Mandy,” concluding it movingly with a sweet falsetto.
The concert was full of his trademark modulations to build songs to big finishes, but he revealed his own pain honestly and intimately in personal songs like “Even Now” and in tunes with post-Sept. 11 significance, such as “Made It Through the Rain.” He has two albums on the Billboard charts, including “Here At the Mayflower” with new material, but he didn’t use his show to hype his latest product. He only sang “Turn the Radio Up” from “Mayflower” and it sounded as classic as his hits from the ’70s.
That’s Barry’s genius: He is such a talented arranger he can make even 25-year-old pop songs sound vital in an era of quickly disposable pop culture.
Barry plays June 23 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine with exciting pop-jazz vocalist Curtis Stigers. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Jones, who lives in Indian Wells, astounded a lot of people when he improvised on the blues at last year’s Jazz Celebrity Golf & Jam Session at Monterey Country Club, but he was never better than Tuesday at the McCallum Theatre when he performed “With Strings Attached.”
Oddly enough, the first indication that this $500-a-plate benefit was going to be special didn’t come with his rendition of one of his Grammy Award-winning hits. It became apparent with his performance of David Gates’ “If,” from Jack’s hit English album, “Bread Winners.” The lush orchestra followed Jack perfectly through every ebb and flow of the arrangement ? as it did throughout the 90-minute set.
Jack isn’t the outgoing showman Manilow is, but he has such great range and impeccable taste and intonation that he inspires an audience to heights of ecstasy. And since he’s returned from his recent tour of “Man of La Mancha,” he’s added a dimension to his music that few non-acting singers can. Like Frank Sinatra, he finds just the right character for each song ? not just for his “La Mancha” segment, but for every song.
A concert highlight was his “Porgy and Bess” medley. He put just enough edge on his voice on “Plenty of Nuthin” to suggest Gershwin’s black characters, then he swung when his rhythm section picked up and floated on the strings as they came to the fore. The singer and orchestra segued seamlessly into “Bess, You Is My Woman” with Jack caught up in emotion and the strings carrying him up to a key change on the last chorus that lifted the music and the audience.
Somehow, Jack found just the right delivery for every shift and turn, soaring into the higher register, adding texture as the music downshifted, rising to a falsetto, changing moods by singing pianissimo, going forte with the rhythm and string sections going full bore before hitting the high notes for a big finish. It was a tough technical exercise blended with emotion, and the crowd responded enthusiastically, but with respect for Jack’s vast skills.
There was little doubt that the McCallum benefactor has become the jazz-pop world’s greatest male balladeer.