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Count on Jones to deliver.

Byline: Peter Landsdowne

COLUMN: REVIEW

WORCESTER - The highly unusual combination of crooner Jack Jones and The Count Basie Orchestra made for a musically interesting concert at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts yesterday afternoon.

Jones is certainly no jazz singer or blues shouter; but his sheer love of singing must have helped to win over any doubting hipsters in a crowd of about 1,200 listeners.

The Basie band warmed up the audience with a solid set of blues-drenched swing and then stayed on stage to accompany Jones, who began his set with a 5-minute video montage that looked like it was lifted straight from YouTube. There were clips of Jones from the early 1960s, singing with everybody from Judy Garland to Tony Bennett to Sammy Davis Jr., followed by a clip of Ed Sullivan introducing a youthful Jones as he made his first network television appearance, way back when.

Then Jones himself appeared on stage. The man still has a set of pipes and the ability to use them. Backed by the Basie band and his own rhythm section (pianist and Worcester native Jeff Colella, electronic keyboardist Gary Nestor, bassist Chris Golangelo, and drummer Kendall Kaye), Jones gave his own spin to the pop staple "A Song for You" before leading the crowd on a trip down Memory Lane.

His joyous singing on Marty Paich's arrangement of an uptempo "She Loves Me" echoed some of the singer's best work from the early 1960s, when he was widely touted as being the next Sinatra - before the British invasion and the Beatles changed the face of pop music forever. Undaunted, Jones stayed in that early 1960s time period as he intoned two of his own hits from that era, a jaunty "Lollipops and Roses" and the ultrahip "Wives and Lovers."

Pianist and Providence native Mike Renzi, who had a hand in making "Lollipops and Roses" a hit for Jones, was in the crowd and got a nice nod from Jones as he reminisced about the song.

Naturally, no Jones concert would be complete without the singer intoning the theme to "The Love Boat." Arranger Tom Garvin's chart on the song gave the trite tune a bossa nova beat, over which Jones sang the lyrics with obvious glee and threw in a dead-on impression of the ship's fog horn for good measure.

Elsewhere, Jones showed a penchant for singing tunes from the Great American Songbook.

His tender singing on the ballad "My Romance" was simply exquisite, as was his superb rendition of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story." Jones easily moved from the baritone to the tenor range on both songs, which featured long-held notes in the upper register.

Similarly, jazzy outings on the standards "Have You Met Miss Jones?" and Jules Stein's "Just in Time" gave the singer plenty of chances to show off both his range and his overall vocal prowess.

Jones was less successful on "Kansas City" and a misguided attempt to cover blues singer Keb-Mo's "Steppin' Out." The crowd responded more positively to the singer's poignant version of Frankie Laine's "We'll Be Together Again" and a delightful rendition of George Gershwin's "Our Love is Here to Stay." Jones' performance on the latter song drew a standing ovation from the crowd, and the singer responded with his best work of the concert, a beautiful rendition of Artie Butler's "Here's to Life" that Jones sang as the video montage ran again, this time with the sound turned off.

The aforementioned opening set by the Count Basie Orchestra gave fans of big band jazz something to shout about. Now under the direction of trombonist Bill Hughes, the band is still peppered with players whom Basie himself hired prior to his death in 1984 and also includes other musicians who have made a commitment to the orchestra, like lead trumpeter Mike Williams, who has more than a decade of experience with the orchestra.

The band went all the way back to Count Basie's 1930s repertoire for some out-and-out instrumental shouting on "Jumpin' at the Woodside" and "One O'Clock Jump."

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Jack Jones displays a range of styles with beauty and humor at the Hanover Theatre.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/JIM COLLINS
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 28, 2008
Words:701
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