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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Another Living Musician I Love - Jon Hendricks

Jon Hendricks loomed large in my musical upbringing. I did lots of serious listening and hanging out in Berkeley in the early to mid-1970's, and Jon was a local guy. He taught some courses at UC Berkeley and Cal State - Sonoma, but he also would show up in various places to sing. He is an enormously creative lyricist and an ebullient singer who basically invented the world of vocalese (writing lyrics to fit instrumental jazz tunes, including the complicated bebop solos). He might be most famous due to his role with Lamberts, Hendricks and Ross - the vocalese trio that gained a measure of fame in the 1958-1964 period. But his work covers a lot of ground, including theater, television and journalism. Jon left California in 2000 and returned to his hometown of Toledo OH (quite a massive change from the Bay Area). He was appointed Distinguished Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Toledo.

Jon would pop up at obscure bars and coffee houses when I was hanging around Berkeley during my college years. And he still pops up unexpectedly. Here in Chicago, the vocalist Kurt Elling is a huge Hendricks fan, so he brings Jon to his gigs. There was a great night at the Green Mill night club on Chicago's north side a few years ago - Jon and Kurt sang together, and some of it was included on Kurt's disk - "Live in Chicago." If you want to hear something fun and awesome, check out Kurt and Jon doing "Going to Chicago." Two singers and a bass fiddle walking the blues - wicked stuff, man.

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