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Jon Hendricks

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John Carl (1921- ) Singer and lyricist

NPR Audio Feature NPR's Louis Armstrong Centennial Radio Project: Jon Hendricks
Jazz critic Stanley Crouch profiles Jon Hendricks, interviewing the artist about his touch with one of Armstrong's greatest legacies: scat singing.

At the age of 14, Jon Hendricks often sang with Art Tatum. He continued to sing and also played drums while attending college in Toledo, Ohio, where he studied literature and later, law. On one occasion during this period he worked with Charlie Parker, who advised him to take up music professionally. After moving to New York Hendricks recorded Four Brothers (1955) with Dave Lambert and Sing a Song of Basie (1957) with Lambert and Annie Ross. The vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross soon became popular for its settings of lyrics to jazz arrangements; it continued until 1964 (Yolande Bavan replaced Ross in 1962). In 1960, Hendricks wrote and directed Evolution of the Blues Song for the Modern Jazz Festival at Monterey, California. After the trio disbanded he continued to sing with various ensembles. In 1968, he moved to London and performed in Europe and Africa for five years, then moved to California, where he was a jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle (1973-4) and taught classes in jazz. He continues to record, and from the 1960s he has often performed with his wife Judith and children Michelle and Eric, and with Bobby McFerrin.

Hendricks excels both at setting lyrics to complex melodies and at performing those lyrics in an articulate manner, with the finesse of a virtuoso saxophonist. He is a fine scat singer, and is so adept at imitating instrumental sounds that his improvisations often surpass the solos played by his accompanists.

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