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Jon Hendricks

Jon Hendricks

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A towering figure in jazz, Jon Hendricks was most famously part of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, the trio that perfected and popularized the art of vocalese, adding lyrics to an existing jazz piece. As the trio's main lyricist, Hendricks' impeccably hip wordplay earned him a reputation as one of jazz's great wordsmiths. The son of a pastor, Hendricks moved numerous times as a child before his family settled in Toledo, Ohio. He started performing as a singer and tap dancer at age seven, turning down an offer to tour with Fats Waller. He served in the military during World War II and returned to Toledo to study law at the university, but left school and moved to New York when Charlie Parker offered to get him work.  (Parker's apparent words were "You ain't no lawyer"). Originally a drummer, Hendricks moved to singing and songwriting; in 1957 Louis Jordan cut his first recorded tune, "I Want You to be My Baby"; soon afterward he cut his own "Four Brothers" and "Cloudburst" with the Dave Lambert Singers; both songs have become jazz vocal standards. Formally teaming with singer/arranger Lambert singer Annie Ross, the trio debuted with Sing a Song of Basie, also in 1957. The album proved a sensation with its...

A towering figure in jazz, Jon Hendricks was most famously part of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, the trio that perfected and popularized the art of vocalese, adding lyrics to an existing jazz piece. As the trio's main lyricist, Hendricks' impeccably hip wordplay earned him a reputation as one of jazz's great wordsmiths. The son of a pastor, Hendricks moved numerous times as a child before his family settled in Toledo, Ohio. He started performing as a singer and tap dancer at age seven, turning down an offer to tour with Fats Waller. He served in the military during World War II and returned to Toledo to study law at the university, but left school and moved to New York when Charlie Parker offered to get him work.  (Parker's apparent words were "You ain't no lawyer"). Originally a drummer, Hendricks moved to singing and songwriting; in 1957 Louis Jordan cut his first recorded tune, "I Want You to be My Baby"; soon afterward he cut his own "Four Brothers" and "Cloudburst" with the Dave Lambert Singers; both songs have become jazz vocal standards. Formally teaming with singer/arranger Lambert singer Annie Ross, the trio debuted with Sing a Song of Basie, also in 1957. The album proved a sensation with its layers of vocals achieved through overdubbing, a new sound in 1957. They teamed with Basie himself for the followup, Sing Along With Basie.  The original trio lasted only five years; during 1962 singer Yolande Bavan took Ross's place and the new configuration lasted until 1964. Their final album, At Newport '63, included a version of Herbie Hancock's recently-written "Watermelon Man." The group never reunited due to Lambert's death two year later. Hendricks moved to England in 1968 and performed extensively, reaching a new generation of rock-trained ears. The early '70s found him settling in Mill Valley, California, where he continued as a jazz educator (even writing for the San Francisco Chronicle and performer. He served on the Kennedy Center Honors committee under Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Clinton; and his work saw a revival thanks to younger disciples the Manhattan Transfer, who collaborated with Hendricks on their bestselling album Vocalese.  Moving back to Toledo in 2000, he began teaching t the university and formed his 15-voice Vocalstra while based there; now stretching the repertoire to include classical pieces as well as jazz. Still active at age 96, he wrote a full vocalization of Miles Davis' classic album Miles Ahead which was premiered in New York by the London Vocal Ensemble in February 2017, with Hendricks attending and Quincy Jones as executive producer. Hendricks died in November of that year.

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Known for such albums as "Freddie Freeloader"
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Popular songs include "Stardust" and "Freddie Freeloader".

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