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  • Jonathan Widran


With the recent passing of longtime friend Tony Bennett, the timeless Jack Jones – who released his debut album This Love of Mine in 1959 at the age of 21 – is perhaps the last singer of that glorious generation still recording and ambitiously discovering fresh ways to interpret familiar and obscure gems from a multitude of eras and genres.

The drop of his latest collection, the epic 15-track collection ArtWork, featuring a 53-piece orchestra lushly and warmly arranged by John Clayton, comes with a few twinges of unintended sorrow. With Bennett’s passing a week after its release, the cover art image of a beautiful, personality filled painting of Jones by his old pal is appreciated in a deeper way. Likewise, no one knew during the sessions that legendary organist and trumpeter Joey DeFrancesco, billed as the ArtWork’s featured artist, would suddenly pass just after they wrapped – making these stunning, loving performances on both instruments his parting gifts to us.

Since he was so renowned for his organ innovations, perhaps the most inspiring surprises here are his gorgeous and dreamy, Miles-esque trumpet on shimmering ballads like “Here’s To Life” and Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around.” This is an exquisite album, both soulfully comfortable and sweetly comforting, rolling like an exclusive visit to Jones’ living room. With the singer in fine, pin drop perfect, smooth and subtle yet sometimes charmingly gravelly form working his trademark interpretive magic throughout, it falls to Clayton, DeFrancesco, drummer Jeff Hamilton, saxophonist Tom Scott, guitarist Graham Dechter and the larger ensemble to caress and complement Jones’ effortless presentations.

From its spirited romps through “Fever” – a track featuring boisterous horns and one of DeFrancesco’s most a rollicking B-3 jams – and ‘This Masquerade” (fired up by Dechter’s George Benson-like solo) through soft spoken strolls through Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” Jacques Brel’s “If You Go Away” and Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?”, ArtWork is all about heartfelt emotion and a dynamic collaborative spirit between greats of different generations. Because of the reality of DeFrancesco being gone too soon reminds us of the fragility of life, it’s reassuring to hear the 85 year old Jones declare Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s optimistic words “One day, the fields will be greener. . .the skies will be bluer” on the closing track.


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