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Jazz singer Jon Hendricks dead at 96

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 11/22/2017 RACHEL DESANTIS
He found success with the group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, as well as on his own thanks to his vocalese prowess. © David Redfern/Redferns He found success with the group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, as well as on his own thanks to his vocalese prowess.

Jon Hendricks, a jazz singer with the trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross who helped bring vocalese into the mainstream, died Wednesday in New York. He was 96.

Hendricks, whose death was confirmed by his daughter to the New York Times, was a pioneering figure in the jazz world whose good humor, scat-singing skills and erudite, story-like lyrics made him a popular figure on stage.

He's best known for mastering the art of vocalese, which is a process of adding lyrics to instrumental jazz tunes that expand upon the titles and create entire new stories.

Hendricks often did this with songs from artists like Count Basie Orchestra and the Horace Silver Quartet, penning narrative lyrics that paired perfectly with the existing melodies.

The Ohio native was also known for being one-third of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross alongside Dave Lambert and Annie Ross, a trio that found success in the late '50s and early '60s with albums like 1958's "Sing a Song of Basie."

The group — which scooped up a Grammy in 1961 for Best Performance by a Vocal Group — called it quits in 1964 two years after Ross's departure, and Hendricks went on to become a jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and a jazz history teacher at the University of California, Berkeley and California State University at Sonoma.

Hendricks — who served overseas in the Army during World War II — scored a second Grammy for "Another Night in Tunisia" in 1986, which he shared with Bobby McFerrin.

The singer and lyricist is survived by two daughters, one son, three grandchildren and a niece. He was predeceased by his wife, Judith, in 2015.

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