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Fri, 09.16.1921

Jon Hendricks, a voice of distinction

Jon Hendricks

*On this date in 1921, Jon Hendricks was born. He was a Black jazz singer and writer.

From Newark, Ohio, as a youth he sang with Art Tatum. He continued performing while a college student in Toledo, where he was advised by Charlie Parker to consider music as a career.  He didn't invent vocalise, the literary art of writing lyrics to follow the musical path of a specific solo but he has long been its prime practitioner. Besides writing, he is a fine jazz singer. Whether singing lyrics or scat, he sings clearly, swings hard and is inventive. Hendricks moved to New York City in 1955, where he joined singer Dave Lambert to record a vocal for Woody Herman's Four Brothers. In '57 they formed a trio with Annie Ross during the recording of Sing A Song Of Basie. The trio lasted until '64, though Ross left the group for health reasons in '62 and was replaced by Yolande Bavan.

Hendricks' witty lyrics combined with the group's exuberance and swing made them a popular nightclub attraction. In 1960 Hendricks wrote and directed The Evolution Of The Blues Song for the Monterey Jazz Festival. After the trio broke up he continued performing with various other singers, and then immigrated to England in '68, basing himself there between tours of Europe and Africa.  Returning to the States in '73, he settled in San Francisco, where he taught and wrote about jazz for the San Francisco Chronicle.

After returning to San Francisco, Hendricks wrote about jazz for the San Francisco Chronicle, taught jazz and formed a group with his wife Judith, children Michelle and Eric and other singers (including for a time Bobby McFerrin) called the Hendricks Family that was active on a part-time basis. Although he never recorded often enough, Hendricks did cut a classic album featuring McFerrin, George Benson, Al Jarreau and himself recreating all the solos in the original version of "Freddie the Freeloader."

He performed often in the company of his wife and children, and rejoined Ross to tour and record in '99. In 2012, Hendricks appeared in the documentary film 'No One But Me' discussion his singing partner Anne Ross.  In 2015, Hendricks lost his second wife Judith to a brain tumor.

Hendricks also appeared on three tracks from the 2016 release of the JC Hopkins Biggish Band titled "Meet Me at Minton's". He performs vocalese on "Suddenly (In Walked Bud)", is included in the ensemble on the album's title track "Meet Me at Minton's", and croons a duet of the Monk tune "How I Wish (Ask Me Now)" with singer and 2016 Thelonius Monk Competition winner Jazzmeia Horn. At the time of the recording he was 93 and Horn was 23.

In 2017, Hendricks' full lyricization of the album Miles Ahead, including Miles Davis' solos and Gil Evans' orchestrations, was completed. It was premiered in New York by UK-based choir the London Vocal Project, with Hendricks in attendance, with a studio recording to follow.  Jon Hendricks died on November 22, 2017 in Manhattan, New York City, aged 96

Reference:
Jazz People
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York
Copyright 1976
ISBN 0-8109-1152-3

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