Pioneering jazz singer Jon Hendricks dies at 96
Toledo: Jon Hendricks, the pioneering jazz singer and lyricist who with the trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross popularised the "vocalese" singing style in which words were added to instrumental songs, has died. He was 96.
His daughter, Aria Hendricks, confirmed his death to the New York Times. She said he died on Thursday at a New York City hospital.
Hendricks found fame in the 1950s and '60s teaming with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross. Their interracial trio became one of the most celebrated jazz vocal groups ever, and among the latter-day stars they influenced were Joni Mitchell and Manhattan Transfer.
The trio's first album, "Sing a Song of Basie," won acclaim for its use of vocalese, in which the voices mimic the instrumental parts.
Hendricks wrote the lyrics to existing Basie songs, and the three recorded their own voices in layers instead of using backup singers.
Others experimented with vocalese before Hendricks, but he is widely regarded as the father of the spirited singing style for popularising it.
In the 1980s, he collaborated with Manhattan Transfer on an album called "Vocalese" that won three Grammys, one for Hendricks himself.
He first teamed up with Lambert, a be-bop singer he admired, in the mid-1950s; the duo had a hit with "Four Brothers" and "Cloudburst." The two became a trio with the addition of Ross in 1957.
The English-born Ross was already known for her own vocalese lyrics to Wardell Gray's music in the classic "Twisted."
In a 1997 Associated Press interview, Hendricks recalled that Lambert said, "Let's do something artistic so that the Earth will at least know we were here. Why don't you lyricise 10 Count Basie things and we'll see if we can record an album." After trying out by recording a large group of singers, Hendricks recalled, they decided to instead create the harmonies by multitracking as a trio with Ross.
After the group broke up in 1962, he pursued a solo career in London, worked as a jazz critic in San Francisco and released several solo albums. Ross also had success in a solo career; Lambert died in 1966.
Hendricks won a Grammy in 1986 for best male jazz vocal performance of 1985 for his work with Bobby McFerrin on "Another Night in Tunisia," a cut on Manhattan Transfer's "Vocalese."
Hendricks wrote all the lyrics for the album, to music by Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and others. It was nominated for a near-record 12 Grammys and won three.
In 1997, he was three featured singers to perform Wynton Marsalis' "Blood on the Fields" on a CD and on tour in the United States and Europe. That same year the three-hour work, which tells the history of blacks in America, won the Pulitzer Prize for music.