Poretz’s release of A Lot of Livin’ to Do, however, presents him as a more versatile singer than merely another Sinatra imitator. For one thing, Poretz is a tenor and Sinatra was a baritone, and so Poretz’s debut CD allows him to sing the music he choose in his natural range. For another, Poretz enjoyed the opportunity to choose his own back-up musicians, including drummer Harold Jones, who (1) encouraged Poretz to sing professional again and to have his own arrangements written for use by Jones’s big band, and (2) who took time out of a tour with Tony Bennett to record four of the tracks on the CD. The Jonathan Poretz heard on A Lot of Livin’ to Do is the Jonathan Poretz heard live in a Bay Area club and not as part of The Rat Pack Is Back, which featured just one element of his talent.
The Jonathan Poretz on this album begins with just the fine qualities of his voice obviously a tenor stretching out sustained notes at the ends of phrsaea and an inherent sense of swing over Vince Lateano’s crisp bongo work. When the entire back-up group comes in with Pierre Joseph’s firm walking bass lines and pianist/arranger Lee Bloom’s splashy chords, Poretz already has established the song’s snappy feel, familiar though the tune may be, with on-pitch delivery, a slight quaver between tones and swelling dynamics of single notes. The group is completed when tenor saxophonist Noel Jewkes comes in to offer an eloquent solo perhaps derived from vocal qualities through his natural improvisational development of connected melodic ideas.
Contrasted with the effervescent title track, next, a Frank Loesser medley ("My Time of Day" combined with "I’ve Never Been in Love Before") provides a more pensive, darker sensibility set up by Jewkes’s film nour-ish introduction of growing volume and timbre, as if he had walked from a side street into the open (reinforced by lyrics like "when the smell of the rain-washed pavement / Comes up clean and fresh and cold"). And then the verse of the first song leads into the chorus of the second one, optimistic and jaunty, as if the sun had obliterated the darkness.
Poretz’s versatility comes through on "Then I’ll Be Tired of You," dedicated to Mel Tormé, as Poretz adopts Tormé’s velvety-fog suavity to gratifying effect. Bennett too is one of Poretz’s influences as well no doubt enhanced by Poretz’s conversations with Jones and Poretz interprets a swinging version of "Come Rain or Come Shine" energized by Bloom’s block-chord accompaniment. Like Bennett, Poretz is generous in allowing the sidemen to shine, and in this instance it’s Jewkes once again who takes the ideas set up by Poretz and incorporates them into yet another fiery, yet logically structured solo. Listen to Poretz’s final note, embellished by Jewkes’s shimmering cadenza, to realize how much he has studied Bennett’s breath control, phrasing and sense of drama in ending a song.
Still, Poretz invests his own personality into the singing, not just by reminding listeners of the entertaining qualities of swinging male vocals, but also some surprises like his scatting trading of fours with Jewkes on "Just One of Those Things," as one picks up the idea developed by the other. On "I See Your Face Before Me," Poretz develops an affecting ballad accompanied only by Bloom on piano, allowing his voice to carry the emotion of the piece. And "How Insensitive" presents an understated Poretz delivering the song with accustomed attention to lyrics without the pulse of the dynamics of swing. Finally, Poretz’s ambition to be a professional singer has been fulfilled, as has his wish to record a CD of the music he enjoys.