Jazz pioneer Jon Hendricks dies aged 96

He passed away in Manhattan yesterday (November 22)

Jazz pioneer Jon Hendricks has died at the age of 96.

He passed away in a Manhattan hospital yesterday, (November 22), reports the New York Times.

The cause of his death has not yet been revealed.


Born John Carl Hendricks in 1921, he began singing at the age of seven. He moved to New York in 1952, where he formed a trio with singers Dave Lambert and Annie Ross, and released seven pioneering albums in the late 1950s and early 60s.

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross created vocal melodies that mirrored improvised instrumental solos, resulting in a loose and impulsive singing style.

Unlike scat singing, which used wordless sounds, these songs had lyrics, written for the trio by Hendricks.

The style, pioneered by singers such as Eddie Jefferson and King Pleasure, was dubbed vocalese by the jazz critic Leonard Feather to describe their debut album, ‘Sing A Song Of Basie’. The album was given a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 1998.

Kurt Elling, a jazz vocalist and one of the current proponents of vocalese, described Hendricks as “the godfather of vocalese and perfector of the art”.


Ross left the trio in 1962 and was replaced by Yolande Bavan, before the group split altogether in 1964 and Hendricks went solo.

He continued working well into the 1990s, reuniting with Ross for a 2015 performance with jazz group the Royal Bopsters. His last studio album, ‘Freddie Freeloader’, came out in 1990.