Jon Hendricks – one of the originators of jazz vocalese – died on Wednesday, Nov. 22, in New York City. Perhaps best known for his collaboration with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross in the vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Hendricks was 96 years old. He had been hospitalized with broken hips. The death was confirmed by the vocalist Kurt Elling, who considered Hendricks a mentor and major influence.
“Jon Hendricks always will be the greatest of jazz lyricists,” Elling said. “I can’t imagine him being surprised that his wife, Judith, thought of him as a mystical offspring of William Shakespeare. His ingenuity and mother wit were always on full display, and his word-twist devices were nothing short of miraculous. His command of the jazz language and the interpretive nature of his improvisation were parallel to the greatest instrumentalists. He was as generous with his words as a lyricist as he was as a mentor and friend to all the jazz singers who have followed him. The last I encountered Jon was in his final days, and he was in the same spirit of joy and interaction.”