June 28 2012, by Rob Lester, Nite Life Exchange

FeinsteinsJack Jones is just a joy. The longtime singer’s long-held, long-heralded high notes are the highlights of his show (the run of which concludes with two shows on Saturday, June 30 at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency). The beauty, strength and breath control are stunning. I can only be bothered by – but not really blame — other impressed audience members who are so eager to show their own appreciation that they begin their noisy applause before a final note ends. OK, maybe I was also a tiny bit bothered by the singer breaking the seriously sweet hypnotic spell he set while singing a gorgeous, pure, sincere ballad version of “People” by mischievously changing one word in the lyric for comic effect. However, it became all the more testament to his command that he can afford to do that, get the chuckles, and, by the next line, be back in the zone —
and have the audience back to being emotionally reconnected, too. It does not escape my attention either that, in that song’s reference to lovers, he changes the lyric referring to them in the distancing grammatical third-person form, to making it “WE’RE very special people,” thus making a single word switch allowing himself to bonded with the listeners and lovers everywhere. (He may as well have sung Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Hello, Young Lovers,” as he had the same effect with that one word.) Mind you, I am not usually a big fan of vocalists cavalierly changing the words of a song, but it worked. And after more than half a century vocalizing in clubs and recordings, maybe one earns a few such indulgences. Anyone who can hold notes at the ends of songs like that — or who can begin the next song with another stunning note, cold, a capella, with no instrumental sound cuing him, cueing us all to gasp and gratefully gush and glory again — well, you know he’s not just anyone. And anyone who wants to see the great remaining veterans would be a fool to miss Jack Jones.
He begins and ends the show with retrospective, introspective perspective. He starts off laying it on the line with the line, “I’ve been so many places in my life and time/ I’ve sung a lot of songs…” with Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.” Again, a couple of little adjustments and direct eye contact with spectators and a hand sweeping across the room makes it clear that “you” becomes the audience, at least at first, not just the one “darling” or “baby” the lyric will address. (The woman who wears his ring is indeed ringside and gets plenty of attention for direct loving serenading and focus, handing off a prop, asking him to tell what turns out to be a very funny story about an appearance on TV with Ed Sullivan.) And the look back at his professional/personal life at the show’s end comes with “Here’s to Life” and a video montage as he masterfully presents the closer of carpe diem decisiveness. Not what we can call a refreshing choice, as the philosophy-soaked number seems to attract so many singers with some mileage: besides Shirley Horn, Eartha Kitt, Dane Vannatter, and Barbra Streisand who’ve gravitated to it, the mic at Feinstein’s has had it intoned during appearances by Kitty Carlisle Hart, Mary Wilson, Barbara Cook, and Gloria Reuben (all of whom even named their acts after the number), as well as Lainie Kazan, Marilyn Maye, Eddie Bruce, and Janet Planet. Still and all, Jones does well earn his turn to turn his thoughts to making the song’s toast. And he deserves a toast for the segment preceding it, in monologue and song taking on the lead character of The Man of LaMancha, a role he once played on stage, including (of course) “The Impossible Dream” (with which he also had vinyl success back in the 1960s and recently redid on his latest, excellent CD, Love Ballad). His chatty patter setting this up, as if not to set up high expectations, apologetically said he wanted to do it even though it was “corny” was not wise or needed: it was a highlight among highlights.
The set list was heavy on old standards like “Angel Eyes,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “You’ve Changed.” Fortunately, he hasn’t changed much over the years, except to now have white hair and be looser and jazzier: he’s still a class act, a great entertainer who has a lot to give and gives it, the voice in splendid shape and one he knows so well how to showcase. With the support of a fine small band featuring sax great Houston Person (who gets some solo moments), the spotlight remains on the vocalist.
And, oh, those sustained tones of glory and guts! There are some singers’ voices my memory has long ago lovingly locked in and they linger. The voice of Jack Jones is one of those. He was one of the very first star singers I ever saw in person, whose albums I searched out and collected, whether he was crooning what some would call the sugary stickiness and floweriness of “Lollipops and Roses” (which won him a Grammy way back when) or standards or passing hits of the day. One of those is reprised here: “The Games People Play,” finding some remaining juice to squeeze out of the oldie after all this time. But his work is clearly no simple “game” to Jack Jones: communication and class are the name of the game, and he takes it all seriously. So do we.