RIP: Jon Hendricks (1921-2017)

Jon Hendricks

Peter Jones writes:

Jazz icon Jon Hendricks has died, aged 96. There has been no more influential figure in jazz singing than Hendricks, if by jazz singing we mean someone who is able to create and improvise in the same way as an instrumentalist. He was the last of his generation, a hipster and wordsmith, who not only sang and wrote but taught jazz, was a distinguished critic, wrote musicals and documentaries, yet was first and foremost a musician. His facility with scat singing was second to none, and although he did not invent the fiendishly difficult art of vocalese (the practice of writing and performing lyrics set to recorded instrumental solos), he is regarded as one of its greatest exponents.

Still best-known as a member of seminal jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, he and Dave Lambert planned to record an album of Basie tunes on which a choir would replace the big-band trumpet, saxophone and trombone sections. The choir didn’t quite work out, so along with Annie Ross, they did it through overdubbing – a technique that was practically unknown at the time. The experimental project eventually turned into the Sing a Song of Basie album.

Humour and sheer silliness was always a major component of Hendricks’s success, in tunes like Gimme That Wine and Horace Silver’s Doodlin’. After Lambert, Hendricks and Ross split in 1963, Hendricks forged a successful solo career. Five years later he moved to London with his family, returning later to the States where he continued to perform and record for the next half-century. One highlight was his hit stage show Evolution of the Blues, which ran for five years. One later project was as a member of Four Brothers, the Kurt Elling-inspired quartet of male jazz singers, which played a number of acclaimed concerts in 2002-3.

For many years Hendricks had planned a vocal interpretation of the Miles Davis album Miles Ahead, but as he reached old age, he had not be able to complete it. UK pianist, composer and arranger Pete Churchill stepped in to help, and in 2016 the eventual result was premiered in New York performed by Churchill’s London Vocal Project, with Jon Hendricks in the audience.

Link: New York Times story

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. John Hendricks' collaboration with Kurt Elling.
    As an NPR(National Public Radio)Jazz program host for 12 years, I recall reading a comment from John Hendricks about Kurt Elling. I was a fan of both, and their music was in my playlist. At the time Elling was getting flack from detractors. Well, Hendricks' 2007 comment to them was short and swift. Saying, “Kurt Elling is the only “cat” (male Jazz vocalist) out there doin' anything”. I never saw John Hendricks live. Tried to catch up with Kurt Elling at the Green Mill in Chicago in 2005. But, that night, Kurt Elling's wife was delivering a new baby into the world. RIP John Hendricks

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