Arsht Center presents Jazz Roots: Vocalese

Jan 15th, 2010. 8:00 p.m.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and acclaimed producer Larry Rosen proudly present Jazz Roots: Vocalese on Friday, January 15th, 2010 at 8:00 p.m. in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. This unique program will bring together onstage for the first time living legend Jon Hendricks – the originator of the vocalese style and founder of the famed Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross vocal group – in concert with multi-Platinum selling vocal group The Manhattan Transfer and the award-winning New York Voices. The evening will showcase the talents of these two giants of the vocalese technique, paying homage to the legendary Jon Hendricks and his role in music history.

Vocalese is the timeless art form that has produced classic jazz standards, including the inimitable “Birdland” vocal work, beloved to jazz fans around the globe. Vocalese is literally the practice of setting lyrics to previously recorded jazz instrumental standards and famous jazz solos and then arranging voices to sing the parts of the instruments, reproducing the sound and feel of the original instrumentation. As the 88-year-old vocalese master Jon Hendricks once put it: “We do what librettists do for opera… we lyricize all the action that’s going on.” Created by a few artists in the early 1950s, this new genre was a creative way to expand on some of the greatest jazz performances in history. The group responsible for inventing this style setting was the Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross ensemble. As the key writer and featured soloist of the trio, Jon Hendricks became the most well known lyricist of the vocalese style and today is considered the “Picasso of Vocalese.” Hendricks wrote a lyric to the instrumental hit, “Birdland,” by the renowned jazz fusion group Weather Report and subsequently The Manhattan Transfer recorded that lyric on the album Extensions, which became a hit multi-Platinum selling record as well as the quartet’s signature tune. Just six years later, the group’s album Vocalese became the single greatest Grammy nominated recording in one year, cementing The Manhattan Transfer’s status as one of the most important and innovative vocal jazz groups ever. Janis Siegel, lead singer for The Manhattan Transfer said, “Jon has taught us that vocalese is not about improvising, it’s about staying true to the original solo and arrangement.”

Jon Hendricks is widely considered to be the “Father of Vocalese,” the greatest innovator of the art form. Hendricks is the only person many jazz greats have allowed to lyricize their music, as he uses great wit and sensitivity while staying true to the original emotions evoked by the composer. For his work as a lyricist, noted jazz critic and historian Leonard Feather called him the “Poet Laureate of Jazz,” while Time magazine dubbed him the “James Joyce of Jive.”

In 1957, Hendricks teamed with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross to form the legendary vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. With Hendricks as lyricist, the trio perfected the art of vocalese and took it around the world, earning the group the designation of the “Number One Vocal Group in the World” for five years in a row from Melody Maker magazine. After six years, the group disbanded for solo careers, leaving behind a catalog of legendary recordings and exerting a meaningful influence on singers such as Al Jarreau and Bobby McFerrin, as well as The Manhattan Transfer. Pursuing a solo career, Hendricks moved his family to London in the late 1960s and toured Europe and Africa extensively; his sold-out club dates drew fans such as the Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Five years later, he moved to California where he worked as the jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. Hendricks later established a 15-voice group, The Jon Hendricks Vocalstra at the University of Toledo, which premiered the vocalese version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s lush “Scheherazade” with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. The octogenarian jazz great continues in his celebrated career, sharing his artistry through performances and teaching as Distinguished Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Toledo.

Known for their impeccable musicality, The Manhattan Transfer is one of the finest vocal jazz groups of all time. Founded 40 years ago by bass singer Tim Hauser, the current ensemble also includes singers Alan Paul (tenor), Janis Siegel (alto) and Cheryl Bentyne (soprano), who joined the group in 1979. The harmony vocal quartet developed a cult fan base in the early 1970s when they regularly performed at Max’s Kansas City and Café Carlyle, Trude Heller’s and Reno Sweeney in New York City. It was at the latter venue that the late Ahmet Ertegun, legendary founder and chairman of Atlantic Records, discovered the quartet and offered them a record deal. The group released their self-titled debut on the label in 1975, and the second single on the album, a re-make of the fifties gospel tune, “Operator,” gave The Manhattan Transfer their first national hit and reached number 22 on the Billboard chart. With collaborators Jon Hendricks and Richie Cole, they focused on the use of the vocalese technique of singing lyrics over jazz compositions or solos. During the last quarter century, the group has promulgated vocalese worldwide through countless performances and finely-crafted recordings. In 1985, they earned 12 Grammy nominations for the album, Vocalese, and received a Grammy for “Best Jazz Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.” After decades of flawless vocal musicianship, The Manhattan Transfer is celebrating their 40th Anniversary with their first new recording in five years – The Chick Corea Songbook – a vocal tribute to jazz fusion pioneer, Chick Corea.

New York Voices is the Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble renowned for their excellence in jazz and the art of group singing. Like other great groups that have come before, such as Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Unlimited and The Manhattan Transfer, they have learned from the best and taken the art form to new levels. Their artistic roots are based in jazz, but the group often incorporates Brazilian, R&B, classical, and pop influences with equal creativity and authenticity. The group was formed in 1987, and two years later they signed their first record deal with GRP Records, which was co-founded by JAZZ ROOTS producer Larry Rosen. Since then, they have received rave reviews and international recognition in the jazz world. Currently celebrating their 20th Anniversary, New York Voices is comprised of founding members Darmon Meader, Peter Eldridge, and Kim Nazarian, along with Lauren Kinhan, who joined the quartet in 1992. In addition to their own CDs, New York Voices has made many guest appearances on recordings and live performances that have earned them critical acclaim and demand in a variety of musical settings. For many years, they performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, and have also sung at jazz festivals around the globe, as well as appeared on the stages of Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, they have collaborated with numerous influential artists such as Nancy Wilson, Annie Ross, Bobby McFerrin, Paquito D’Rivera and many more.

Adrienne Arsht Center
1300 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33132

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