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Jack Jones Stays Unplugged : Thanks in Part to Tony Bennett on MTV, the Veteran Singer Draws Younger Fans to Hear the Standards

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The musical world where Jack Jones lives, the world of classic standards, was dismissed for years by younger fans as “retro.” Then, last year, Tony Bennett suddenly appeared on “MTV Unplugged,” and standards and such became something of a rage. Jones, naturally, is happy with the turn of events.

“Ten years ago, Tony Bennett would have been the last guy you’d have thought would appeal to a younger audience, but he did, and that’s a really good sign,” says Jones, who sings tonight at Orange Coast College’s Robert B. Moore Theatre in Costa Mesa.

A youthful, handsome 58-year-old who has carved out a secure niche with his resilient versions of everything from “Wives and Lovers” to the Gershwins’ “Summertime” and John Sebastian’s “I Had a Dream,” Jones says he wouldn’t mind a piece of that new demographic.

“Any artist wants to be anywhere that he can reach people,” he noted during a recent phone conversation from his home in Indian Wells, Calif. “Obviously, the best way to reach younger listeners is to go on MTV. And Tony didn’t have to compromise at all, and that’s great.”

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Jones has not been asked to sing on MTV, but he says younger fans have been trickling into his core crowd of middle-aged folks and have told him they’ve enjoyed his music. In any case, he says, he--like Bennett--is not about to abandon his bread-and-butter program of classic melodies done with considerable taste and verve, the kind of show that he and his trio, led by pianist Matt Catingub, will offer at OCC.

Jones, who has played all kinds of rooms from small nightclubs to large theaters in New York, London, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, said he is looking forward to singing at the Moore. “Concertizing in a performing arts center is the most rewarding thing I do. I enjoy being one-on-one with the people, communicating. People seem to be moved by the music.

“Music is a very spiritual thing. It’s intangible, but it’s very soothing to give and receive. Music is very positive. It will keep you away from the negative. If you put on a good jazz album while you’re doing chores around the house, you won’t be thinking about bad things.”

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But bad music can be downright painful to him. He remembers being appalled by Bruce Springsteen’s attempt to sing “Angel Eyes” at Frank Sinatra’s recent 80th birthday tribute. “He sang the wrong melody, played the wrong chords. . . . I appreciate Bruce for what he does. He’s very entertaining. But he stepped out of character on that show.”

Jones admitted that he did the same thing for a while and still regrets it. In the ‘70s, he dressed in “funny clothes: bell-bottoms, Nehru jackets,” wore gold medallions and sang songs like the Youngbloods’ “Get Together.”

“For a little while I got lost,” he said. “I wasn’t being honest.”

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Jack Jones sings tonight at 8 in the Robert B. Moore Theatre, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. $27 at the door. (714) 432-5880.


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