Print Edition - 2017-11-24  |  Life & Style

Jazz pioneer Jon Hendricks, dies at 96

- The guardian, Los Angeles

Nov 24, 2017-

Jon Hendricks, the American jazz singer who pioneered the evocative vocalese style, has died aged 96. His daughter Aria Hendricks confirmed the news.

The son of a minister and with 14 siblings, Hendricks was born in Newark, Ohio, in 1921, later moving to Toledo, where he forged an early partnership with then-unknown jazz pianist Art Tatum. Hendricks moved to New York in 1952, where he formed a trio with singers Dave Lambert and Annie Ross, and released seven pioneering albums in the late 1950s and early 60s. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross created vocal melodies that mirrored improvised instrumental solos, resulting in a beautifully loose and impulsive singing style; unlike scat singing, which used wordless sounds, these songs had lyrics, written for the trio by Hendricks. The style, pioneered by singers such as Eddie Jefferson and King Pleasure, was dubbed vocalese by the jazz critic Leonard Feather to describe their debut album, Sing a Song of Basie, on which Count Basie’s big-band melodies were reworked into songs. The album was given a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 1998, to add to their best vocal group performance award in 1962 for the album High Flying.

Kurt Elling, a jazz vocalist and one of the current proponents of vocalese, described Hendricks as “the godfather of vocalese and perfector of the art”.Ross left the trio in 1962 and was replaced by Yolande Bavan, before the group split altogether in 1964 and Hendricks went solo. As well as performing with his quartet, Jon Hendricks and Company—whose ranks had at one point included Bobby McFerrin, of Don’t Worry Be Happy fame—he also a critic and a teacher of jazz history.

Published: 24-11-2017 08:25

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