This is Bop
Jon Hendricks and the Art of Vocal Jazz
Peter Jones [+–]
Jazz singer and journalist
He read English at St Peter’s College, Oxford, and after a brief sojourn at the University of New Mexico he returned to England and began working as a pop music journalist. After a decade as a film and TV publicist, during which he was the researcher for the autobiography of Spitting Image founder Roger Law, he gained an MA in Film and Television Studies from the University of Westminster. Until 2015 he taught film and media at a variety of London colleges, and published a short book on black cinema (BFI Publishing), followed by a handbook for Media and Film students (Hodder Arnold).
For several years he played bass in a jazz sextet, before deciding to concentrate on singing. At around the time of his first album (‘One Way Ticket to Palookaville’ – 2013) he developed a serious interest in the work of Mark Murphy, which has continued ever since. He began working for London Jazz News, reviewing concerts and CDs, and conducting interviews, including one with Kurt Elling in 2015. His second album (‘Utopia’) was released in 2016.
If any man could be defined as the epitome of the modern jazz singer, it would surely be Jon Hendricks.
His contributions to jazz as a whole were colossal: a hipster, a bopster, a comic and raconteur, a wordsmith par excellence, and a fearless improviser who took the arts of scatting and vocalese to new heights. As a founder member of the groundbreaking vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, he changed forever the public perception of what a jazz singer could be.
Jon Hendricks started singing professionally at the age of seven. Within five years he was supporting his entire family – including three sisters, eleven brothers and a niece – with his earnings from radio appearances.
He was active in jazz long before the birth of bebop, and didn’t stop until he was in his nineties. Taught by the pioneering bebop pianist Art Tatum, Hendricks performed with everyone of any consequence in jazz, from Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker. Before Lambert, Hendricks and Ross astonished the world with their album Sing A Song Of Basie, he was writing songs for Louis Jordan. Later he wrote for stage, screen and the press, and influenced and worked with Manhattan Transfer, Bobby McFerrin and Kurt Elling. Not content with writing lyrics for jazz instrumentals, he turned his hand later in life to classical works by Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninoff.
When Jon Hendricks died in 2017, he left behind a final masterwork – his fully-lyricized adaptation of the Miles Davis album Miles Ahead.
Series: Popular Music History