Jon Hendricks, the genius of vocalese (writing words to fit the recorded solos of jazz greats) has long been one of the top lyricists in music. However the emphasis during the first seven songs of this live CD is on scatting and heated bop-oriented improvising. Hendricks, assisted by Michelle Hendricks, is joined by quite an all-star horn section: trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, trombonist Al Grey, altoist Red Holloway and tenor Benny Golson in addition to a supportive four-piece rhythm section. After a warmup on "Get Me to the Church on Time," Jon Hendricks sings some humorous lyrics on "Do You Call That a Buddy," swings hard on his original boppish "Good Ol' Lady" and gets a bit lowdown on "Contemporary Blues." The biggest surprise of the date is "Everybody's Boppin"' which features scatting by Jon Hendricks, Michele Henricks and Wynton Marsalis. Wynton is quite effective and typically virtuosic in a manner similar to Dizzy Gillespie. Michele is excellent on an uptempo "Almost Like Being in Love" and "Since I Fell for You," Jon sings the blues on "Roll 'Em Pete" and, together with Kevin Burke and Judith, Michele and Aria Hendricks, performs vocalese versions of three Count Basie charts long ago recorded by Lambert, Hendricks And Ross: recreations of recreations. This is Jon Hendricks's best all-round recording in several years and was one of the finest jazz vocal albums to be released in 1995.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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Jon Hendricks is one of a handful of cherished figures in jazz whose musicianship is abetted by their natural properties as catalysts. When Hendricks is around, things happen, as they do with Benny Carter, Gerry Mulligan, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Shorty Rogers, and John Lewis, and as they did with Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus. He is an organizer, a fire-starter, an all-out participant with unflagging commitment to the moment.
Hendricks loves jam sessions, and he loves sitting in. In the heyday of the Monterey Jazz Festival, in the early sixties, he was apt to make appearances with half of the groups on the program, if only to scat a chorus or two. He is one of the best known singers in the world, and the living master of the craft of matching original lyrics to jazz compositions and the recorded improvisations of jazz soloists.
Hendricks' ability to combine musical and literary intricacies was at the heart of the success of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the trio that became famous in the 1950s and influenced every jazz vocal group that followed it. To paraphrase Dizzy Gillespie's apothegm regarding Louis Armstrong ("No him, no me"): No LHR, no Manhattan Transfer.
Jon's activities during and after the LHR era included a series of successful albums and television and stage productions. His Evolution of the Blues Song was a highlight of the Monterey Festival in 1960 and later had extended runs in San Francisco and Los Angeles. His Jon Hendricks and Company is in its second decade as the successor to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.
For this good git-together at Christmastime 1993, Jon set up Company operations in New York's Blue Note, increasingly a location of choice for live recordings by jazz artists. His wife, Judith, daughters Michele and the delightfully named Aria, and Kevin Burke are the vocal members of the Company. Their support staff of rising young musicians is pianist Renato Chico, guitarist Mark Elf, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummer Andy Watson. Wynton Marsalis (with Lou Soloff sitting in for him one night), Al Grey, Red Holloway, and Benny Golson are more than a collection of distinguished visiting soloists. They constitute an ensemble with qualities of the little jump bands that flourished from the 1930s to the early 1950s.
Given his omnipresence in the music of the 1990s, little needs be said about Marsalis except that his solos here-loose and relaxed-are some of his most convincing jazz work on record and that the one on Good Ol' Lady may be his best. But not to be missed is his scat debut with Jon and Michele Hendricks on the title tune, Everybody's Boppin'. Grey's collaborations with Hendricks go back more than three decades. The forthrightness and humor of his trombone have long been among the delights of jazz listening. Pay attention to his flugelbone work on Contemporary Blues. Golson, one of the premier jazz composers and arrangers, took his tenor saxophone out of mothballs some time ago, gratifying those who missed the vigor and grace of his solos. There has never been a satisfactory explanation for Red Holloway's not being better known. A tenor saxophonist of power, gritty blues wisdom, and uncommon harmonic resourcefulness, he is equally gifted on alto, the instrument he plays here. The full-steam-ahead trumpet work on One O'Clock Jump is by Lou Soloff.
The performances, the material, and the reaction of the Blue Note audience speak for themselves. All of the lyrics, except those of Get Me to the Church on Time, Since I Fell For You, and Almost Like Being In Love, are by Hendricks.
A final thought about Hendricks: His accomplishments as "the James Joyce of jive" (Time Magazine) have, like Joyce's own use of language, as much to do with rhythm as they do with the words themselves. Jon's control of the elements of time is evident throughout this album, nowhere more than in his singing on Everybody's Boppin', in which he swings like crazy as he stretches, contracts, stops, starts, and generally plays with time like a cat with a mouse. The performance discloses a great deal of what artistry of Jon Hendricks is about.
- Doug Ramsey (Author, Jazz Matters:Reflections on the Music and Some of Its Makers)