Back in 2001, Jerry Floor and then-Mayor Rocky Anderson put their heads together and created the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival.
The festival immediately became an annual fixture in the downtown Salt Lake City scene. And seven years later, it's still bringing exciting international jazz to the capital city.
This year, one of the headliners comes full circle. Singer Jack Jones, who headlined the inaugural festival in 2001, is returning to give Salt Lake audiences another dose of his cool vocal delivery.
"The last time I was at the festival, it rained," Jones said during a phone interview from La Quinta, Calif. "I remember waiting for it to stop, and when it did, there were still maybe 1,500 people out there with umbrellas waiting for the set to start. I can tell you that Utah has some of the most devoted jazz fans I have ever seen."
And Jones can say that with authority. This year marks his 50th anniversary in the music business. In addition to jazz, he performs musical theater and is known for his work in "Guys and Dolls," "South Pacific," "She Loves Me," "The Pajama Game" and "Man of La Mancha." "I have been singing all my life," he said, "and finding new avenues to use my voice."
However, when Jones returns to Utah, he knows he has to choose songs from his Billboard Hit singles list.
"There just isn't enough time to sing everything," he said. "But what I will do is really what I've La Mancha,' but I have a lot of songs to choose from." That means Jones will sing a hit-parade of songs that will probably include the Top 20 hits "The Race Is On" and "Wives and Lovers/Toys in the Attic," as well as other Top 40 tracks "Dear Heart" and "Lady."
Who knows, he may even sing the theme from "The Love Boat" that introduced Jones to a new and younger audience in the 1970s.
Music hit Jones at an early age. His father was movie star Allan Jones and his mother was actress Irene Hervey. He grew up around music and show business, but it was the stereo that got him hooked on tunes. "The stereo was first coming out, and I was fascinated by sitting down and hearing a band play," he said. "It was like the band was playing right in my living room. It was like I was sitting in front of the band and they were playing just for me."
During his career, Jones has garnered two Grammy Awards and a Grammy nomination. And he's performed in every kind of venue imaginable. "I remember one night I was rehearsing in New York and the piano was just out of tune," he said. "I went to the owner and said, 'I can't sing with this piano.' And the guy said, 'Whad'dya mean you can't sing with this piano? I just got it painted.'
"Since then, my life's goal has been easy to find the perfectly tuned piano," Jones said with a laugh.
As for the Grammys and other accolades the late Judy Garland called Jones the best jazz singer in the world Jones said he felt honored he got those recognitions. His first Grammy was awarded to him in 1962. He won Best Pop Male Performance for the song "Lollipops and Roses." The second was received in 1964 in the same category for "Wives and Lovers."
"The awards came quickly in my career," he said. "And then the Grammys became more of a machine like many awards shows. But it didn't diminish the honor I felt."Still, Jones, even when he was a budding musician, didn't shy away from working hard, or being humble. "I remember that I was working in a gas station to make ends meet with my music career," he said. "I was wiping the windows of a customer and one of my songs came on the radio. I probably missed a few spots, but I didn't have the heart to tell him that was me on the radio. Then again, he may have not believed me, anyway."
If you go . . .
What: Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival
Where: Washington Square, 400 South and State Street
When: Friday, 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and July 13, 3 p.m.
How much: $10 at the gate (children younger than 12 free)
Phone: 467-8499, 800-888-8499