November 17, 2008 – by Glen Creason

Unfortunately, many of us who came of age during the dawning of the Rock and Roll era missed out on some really great popular music from traditions predating the Shaking, Rattling and Rolling. I can remember seeing these dinosaurs on variety shows like Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin and even Jack Parr crooning the classics of the Great American songbook while I yawned away, waiting for Elvis or the Beatles to raise my youthful blood pressure. Now, in the early September of my years I have rediscovered the glory of these great entertainers and am saddened that I missed them the first time around. Greats like Mel Torme, Sammy Davis Jr., Joe Williams, Matt Monroe, Robert Goulet, Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney come to mind when I cast back into TV-land for guest-singers on such shows. Happily, some of these great ones still make appearance and can still belt out the classics like they did when Hector was a pup. On Sunday afternoon, one of the real prime examples of such fountain of youth singers was on display at the Performing Arts Center and his show was a revelation for we wet behind the ears rock and rollers. Jack Jones, guest reveler on untold shows in the 60’s and 70’s put on a clinic of the vocal arts and left an entire hall in awed adulation of his limitless, ageless set of pipes. For close to two hours Jones told a charming story or twenty, moved out into the crowd of avid fans pressing the flesh and just put gilt edges on some really great songs. The show offered a delightful variety in the material, ranging from Cole Porter’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay” to Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” that stretched the melodies and emotional impact to the limits. There were certain classics like Johnny Mercer’s hard edged “I Want to Be Around,” the utterly romantic “What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life,” a crisp “It Was Just One of Those Things” and a decidedly regal “Stranger in Paradise.” There were also surprises from more contemporary sources like a beautiful “God Only Knows” from the Beach Boys songbook, “Just In Time” done as a bossa nova, an R&B soaked “Kansas City” that did Wilbert Harrison proud, and a swinging “All of Nothing at All” that Jones boomed nonchalantly while striding around the orchestra seats thrilling his fans. Of course, the dapper one could not escape the hall without singing his vinyl record hits of “Lollipops and Roses,” “Theme from the Love Boat,” and the dangerously chauvinistic “Wives and Lovers” much to the delight of the mostly female audience. Backed by a very good quartet centered on pianist Jeff Colella, Jones time and time again sent notes to the top row of the hall with range to spare and turned ballads to pure silk in the lower registers. His best work on a full and satisfying afternoon’s “work” was the exquisite singing of a minor classic called “Our Song” and a magnificent reading of “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.” After hearing this absolute master class in vocal appreciation I kind of wished I had listened a little more closely back in 1967 instead of leaving the tone arm up on that “Meet the Beatles” album. I wonder whatever happened to them?