Jack Jones is at The King’s Theatre tonight on the last date of his “Jack Sings Frank” UK Tour 2016, and I have to admit that, despite such a long career in the music industry, this is the first time I have seen Jack Jones perform live. My memories of Jack Jones are mainly from his many appearances on our television screens in countless musical/variety shows from the 1960s and 1970s (I think he lived inside our television set to be honest, he was on it that often) and of course from singing the theme song from “The Love Boat” television show in the 1970s.
This show was really a show in two halves. The first half celebrating what would have been the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra with a carefully chosen selection of songs that Frank covered, and the second half pretty much “The Jack Jones Show”
I wanted to catch this show for several reasons –amongst them being the chance to catch some of these wonderful songs written by great writers such as Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, but also to see and hear one of the last of the original performers of “The Great American Songbook”. Sadly, Jack Jones and Tony Bennett are really the last living connections with this great period of songwriting and the last of the original masters of this wonderful laid back style of performance.
What makes this selection of songs that Frank Sinatra used to sing different is. of course, that Jack and Frank were friends (Jack went to High School with Nancy Sinatra) and Jack also knew many of the great original writers of these timeless songs.
The show actually opens with some film of Frank Sinatra at home and this helps set the whole tone for the songs to follow.
To some, this first half might have seemed a bit of an odd selection as Jack has deliberately avoided many of the songs that are immediately associated with Frank Sinatra – songs like “My Way”, “New York New York” and “Quarter to Three”, and instead gone for songs where the lyrics and the story are the reason for choosing the song (just like Frank Sinatra did). Jack Jones wants to sing these songs, share them with us, but definitely not do a Frank Sinatra impersonation on stage (why would he – he is Jack Jones).
Many of the songs tonight come from his new CD “Seriously Frank” and there are some classics here and all done in true style – Songs like “Teach Me Tonight”, “The Best is Yet To Come”, “The Lady is A Tramp”, “Call me Irresponsible”, and “I Won’t Dance” to name but a few. A few other songs from this first set, for me, deserve special mention though, a great version of “Drinking Again” and a clever and imaginative twist for “It Was a Very Good Year”. Jack felt that, as this last song was so closely associated with Frank Sinatra, a different approach to it was needed, and we have photos of Frank from his early to later years being shown on the screen behind. All of these songs were an example though that just singing them is just not enough, and to do these songs properly you have to have the ability to become the character the songs were written about. These songs are stories and you have to be able to tell the story – Jack Jones can tell a story. Of course, these songs also require a singer (like Jack) who can get phrasing and timing perfect.
The second set was pretty much Jack Jones with songs more identified with him such as “The Love Boat” and a very powerful and personal to him “The Impossible Dream”. For “The Impossible Dream” (from The Man From La Mancha) Jack re-created by doing both parts of the duet that he used to perform with his late father Allan Jones, and this song was a tribute to his father.
The real highlight of this show was actually not any of the songs, but Jack Jones himself and obvious warmth that he had for his audience and the warmth they returned to him. Jack comes from the old school of performers (he has been on stage most of his life) and that means not only very high professional standards, but respect for an audience.
It is, I think, fair to say that many people in the audience have been long time fans of Jack and there was just a nice warm and friendly atmosphere to the whole show. People in the front rows had been at every show on this tour, and before the show Jack’s wife (who spent the rest of the show sitting out front with people too) was happily talking to the fans, getting photos taken etc. Jack himself was down off stage talking to people, having a little dance with a few and even while walking round the theatre singing one song,happily stopping to have photos taken with members of the audience.
Jack Jones is 78 now, and at that age as you would expect a few moments of the higher register vocals are getting problematic at times, but the sheer power of the voice is still definitely there, and the song selection was so carefully chosen to fit what ranges he worked best in that it made no difference to be honest. These songs are about timing, phrasing and living the song, and Jack Jones is a master of these qualities.
This was a higher end budget show too as Jack was performing with a 15 piece band including three long time members of his US band – Chris Colangelo (Bass Guitar) Kendall Kay (Drums) and Christian Jacob (Piano and Musical Direction).
For any aspiring singer in this style, this show is a master class in how to do the job. For any singer/ performer out there, it is also a lesson in how to perform to an audience. You simply can not have a career as long as Jack Jones has had without knowing how to keep an audience with you, and the key to that seems to be very simple...Jack Jones loves performing to his audience and they love watching and listening to him perform.
This tour “Jack Sings Frank” is also not just someone singing songs that Frank Sinatra sang, but a tribute to an obviously dearly missed friend.
Review by Tom King