Great concert at the Distillery District Sunday night. Pricey tickets but never mind: figured this might be our one chance to see Jon Hendricks, 85 now, who in 1958 teamed up with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross to form the unsurpisngly named, but otherwise consistently surprising Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. He's touring with his daughter Aria (taking Annie Ross's part) and Kevin Burks (standing in for Dave Lambert)--not simply redoing the LH&R hitlist but arranging new material in the same style. (Aria Hendricks did a remarkable solo based on Wes Montgomery's angular instrumental transcription of Gershwin's 'Summertime'--reintroducing the vocal, interpreted according to Montgomery's transcription, which replaces the usual lush romanticism with a hard staccato edge.)
It would have been a remarkable enough night if it had featured only these three singers (with their backup trio. Peter Mihelich on piano, Neal Miner on bass and Andy Watson on drums). "Jumpin' at the Woodside" is the same miracle of harmony it was when first recorded, and the recorded version didn't feature extended scat solos by each of the three, linking up to a duet and then a trio before rejoining the intricate harmony of the song's main lyric. I imagine Lambert, Hendricks and Ross did that kind of thing live, but to the best of my knowledge no recordings that extended and freewheeling exist.
Then there were the instrumental vocals. Kevin Burks made his vocal chords a trumpet for one extended solo, with mute and vibrato effects. He also did an extended, hilarious solo (with mime fingerings) as a bass, which Hendricks replied to before they merged into a duet. Sounds you might never in your life have expected would clear customs at the tonsils.
Then there were the special guests. This was the last night of a five day festival and a lot of performers were in the audience. Hendricks invited them up, and I gather most of the fine music that came from this was totally unplanned. Clark Terry, who needed a wheelchair to get to the stage and two assistants to climb the three steps, contributed a breathy whisper of trumpet to two songs--one of which, according to Hendricks, he knew, and one he'd never heard before. "But you'll see, he'll play just as good on the one he doesn't know," which Terry soon did, "because jazz musicians know everything. A jazz musician should be president." Oh right, try and squeak that past the Dems or the Repubs, or any of our parties up North either. All of them have tin ears and consequent prejudice against people who can hear.
(Dave Lambert once said "Anyone who goes to see a psychiatrist should have his head examined." I don't know if Annie Ross was thinking about that when she wrote 'Twisted', but it's certainly one of the ideas alluded to in that tuneful composition. He also said "I want to start a new veteran's association: the veterans of future wars.")
Even more remarkable were two interludes where Clark Terry and John Hendricks jive talked at each other, the first time in English which, because of poor miking at that moment, I only caught in snatches--"He told you that? He was lyin'." "I know he was lyin'! I told him so." etc. The next time they repeated the gist--cadences and rhythms--in scat. Both routines were hilarious. I would have liked to have picked up more of the words, when there were words, but more than we think of humour--of meaning generally--is conveyed by cadence and rhythm.
Jimmy Sly, who needed one helper to get to the stage and up the stairs, tapdanced. Probably in his prime he could have twirled and leaped more, tired less soon, but there was still visible genius in his moves.
When Aria did the Gershwin-Montgomery piece I mentioned, her father introduced it thusly: "For her solo my daughter is going to do--whatever she wants to do!" and scampered off the stage. That mood of comedy and generosity dominated the evening. When Kevin Mahoggany, another guest soloist, fanned Jon Hendricks during an extended scat riff to indicate it was hot! Took the chill out of the Fermenting Cellar--which is not a heated building--that cool night of rain. Shows far less generous in spirit are considerably more common, but not necessarily to be prized more on that account. And this one wasn't over when we left. All in attendance were invited to stay on for an all night jam, probably featuring all the musicians we'd just seen and as many again. Saturday night and I'm there if I can persuade my wife and sister-in-law, but Sunday? With a six-thirty wake up for work? I hope the people we'd seen filming kept at it--I'm talking official, not bootleg filmmakers--maybe there's the chance some day we'll get a look at what we missed.
C 2007 Martin Heavisides