Beloveds, major news in a minor key. Jon Hendricks, a Prince of Pipes, a swingin' Peerless Jazz Bard, and a Gasser of a Gent, has taken his leave of us. He swooped the scene from a hospital bed in Manhattan on November 22, 2017 no doubt calling the tempo and swinging to the very last measure of the last chart.
His accomplishments on this sphere are many and varied, jazz singer, songwriter, playwright, professor, theorist, semantic prankster and breathtaking vocal gymnast.
He grew up in Ohio, the son of an A.M.E. Minister father and choir directing mother. He had 14 siblings and first sang in public at the tender age of 7. By the age of 14 he was singing professionally on the radio in Toledo, Ohio accompanied by Art Tatum. He also began writing songs.
By 1952 he was in New York City singing and writing when he happened upon King Pleasure's recording of “Moody's Mood For Love”. This song inspired by a James Moody saxophone turn in the song “I'm In The Mood For Love”grabbed his wig and would not let go. In a 1982 interview with the New York Times Hendricks was quoted as saying, “I was mesmerized...I thought 'Moody's Mood for Love' was so hip. You didn't have to sop at 32 bars. You could keep going.”
And keep going he did. He created songs that utilized a recent innovation called Vocalese. Vocalese is basically the transliteration of jazz instrumental solos into lyrics that capture, note for note, both the feel and rhythm of the original musical effort. Hendricks excelled in the practice creating a memorable portfolio of work.
In 1953 he met singer Dave Lambert and they keep the going going.. The collaboration flourished, they added jazz singer Annie Ross and the jazz phenomena that was “Lambert, Hendricks and Ross” was born. In 1958 their breakthrough album was titled “Sing a Song of Basie”. It was based on their interpretations of Count Basie songs. The album was a hit.
Since those heady days of LH & R Hendricks has never taken much of break from anything. He wrote a stage show called, “Evolution of the Blues”. He became a professor at the University of Toledo. He fronted his own group, collaborated with Bobbie McFerrin, and, as they say, etc., etc, etc.
Sometime around 1958, in New York City, he encountered and became friends with Lord Buckley. He spoke about it in an interview with Michael Monteleone in 2007.
“He, he was so, so sweet to all of us. I can't tell you. He just - he loved it as much as we did. We didn't love, "Sing a Song of Basie" a wit more than he loved it. He was so proud of us for doing it. And so happy that we had done it, you know. 'Cause it, it supported his thesis. You know, that hip music and hipness itself is where life is, you know. That was what he was all about. And his idea that every man is a Lord and every woman is a Lady, you know. There are no peasants, you know. We're all aristocrats in God. We're children of God. And we're all down here and we're the aristocrats of this planet. That was his thing, you know. That's why he called everybody "Lord" and every woman "Lady." It was so beautiful. It was - it was the finest application of religious principles I ever heard and my father was a good preacher, you know. And all the sermons he preached were wonderful. But, Buckley preached a sermon too. And it was beautiful. That we are all Lords and Ladies and children of God.
He was a very religious man, you know. As hip as he was that didn't ameliorate his spiritual side. I loved him a lot, you know. I told him so too.
When we went to this party for the, you know, celebrating our, our hit record, he was there with Lady Buckley. And there was no place to sit because everybody had every available chair. And he says, 'Prince!' You know. And I turned around and he said, 'Sit here.' And he sat me on his knee. And he said to me the most beautiful thing. He said, 'You've got their ear, now tell them the truth.' I said, 'OK.' And he had his arm around me. Wasn't that beautiful?”
Noble cats and kitties, sing a song of Jon Hendricks and you will be laying it down right and tight.