Song of the Week Revisited – Moanin’, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

Today the great jazz vocalist, Jon Hendricks, died at the age of 96. You can read his full obituary here:®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

This SotW post was originally made in April 2009. I’m reposting it in honor of Hendricks’ passing.


Back in the early 70s, Joni Mitchell – one of my favorite artists – began her explorations into jazz. Long before she veered off to make her most ambitious jazz outings — Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977), Mingus (1979) or her live album with Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius and Lyle Mays, Shadows and Light (1980) — Mitchell recorded “Twisted” (Court and Spark (1974)) and “Centerpiece” (The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975)), two songs popularized by the jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

The influence of LH&R on Mitchell is obvious if you watch this video of Annie Ross performing “Twisted”:

Joni’s vocal arrangement mimic’s Ross’ which in turn was a copy of the tenor saxophone solo by Wardell Gray from his 1949 recording of “Twisted.”

LH&R are fun to listen to. They may be the most important vocal group in the history of jazz. Their influence can be heard in groups like The Manhattan Transfer. They more or less invented the style of singing called “vocalese.” Vocalese is where lyrics are sung as the parts that were originally played by instruments. It’s sort of like scat, but with real words rather than nonsense syllables.

The song of the week is “Moanin’.”

Listen to how Jon Hendricks is able to create the timbre of a saxophone with his voice. At 2:15 into the song, Ross soars to hit notes usually played by a high lead trumpet! If you’re not already, I hope this makes you a fan.

Enjoy… until next week.

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