A hint of gritty reediness has crept into the superb instrument that is Jack Jones’ voice; but that doesn’t hinder his soaring musicality and control as the ageless warbler wended his way through a daunting 17-number set at Hollywood’s main jazz watering hole, Catalina Bar & Grill. Working with a four-piece band led by pianist Tom Garvin, Jones immediately established his credentials with a show-opening, slow-four journey through Lionel Bart’s “Where Is Love,” highlighted by Jones’ breath-defying hold on a single high note that was as pure in tone as it was perfect in pitch.
Jones delighted in displaying his transcendent range and vocal control on a wide range of pop and Broadway ballads, including “The Nearness of You,” Cy Coleman’s “It Amazes Me,” “Nothing’s Gonna Harm You” from “Sweeney Todd,” Kahn/Van Huesen’s “Call Me Irresponsible,” Leon Russell’s rock ballad, “A Song for You,” Michel Legrand’s “One at a Time” (featuring a delicious Garvin piano solo) and the Frankie Lane standard, “We’ll Be Together Again.” The final ballad of the evening,” “So Here’s to Life,” served as an underscore to a video montage of Jones’ near 50-year career.
The singer’s unerring musicianship was evident throughout the evening but it was his jazz instinct that proved a revelation. The title song from the tuner “She Loves Me” was served up as hard-swinging faux bebop with Jones riffing on both the melody and the rhythm. Though Jones admitted the lyrics are rather sociologically incorrect, he drove through an uptempo jazz waltz rendering of his Grammy-winning, “Wives and Lovers,” penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. He even instilled new vitality into Paul Williams’ title theme from the TV series “The Love Boat,” which Jones recorded in 1977.
It was obvious Jones was in no hurry to end the set as he casually chatted with audience members in between his relaxed outings on such medium groove swingers as “A Stranger in Paradise,” “Just in Time” and Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things.” He utilized Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay” as an opportunity to actually stroll through the nearly sold-out crowd, shaking hands and greeting old friends.
Jones was served well by the Garvin quartet’s understated backing. Especially rewarding were Garvin’s intermittent solos and the fleshed-out orchestrations provided by the synthesized keyboard work of Jeff Colella.