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March 2, 2006

Jarreau makes detour to honor Hendricks


Al Jarreau made a long detour to the Big Apple while returning home to Los Angeles from a benefit concert in Columbia, S.C., just to pay tribute to the jazz singer he considers his main mentor - Jon Hendricks. "I wouldn't miss this for anything in the world .... I'd go to the moon for a chance to bow in Jon's direction," Jarreau said backstage after presenting Hendricks with a Beacon Award at a gala benefit Monday night for the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music at The Pierre hotel. Jarreau, 65, who holds a place in Grammy history by winning awards as a jazz, pop and R&B vocalist and is best known for his theme song to the hit TV show "Moonlighting," marked the occasion by singing lyrics he wrote to saxophonist Eddie Harris' funky up-tempo tune "Cold Duck Time."

Hendricks is widely credited with being the father of vocalese, the art of setting lyrics to jazz instrumental standards and then having voices sing the instruments' parts. "I never knew that you could combine such spirit, vitality, intelligence and a gift of gab," said Jarreau, in presenting the award to Hendricks. "I'm still trying to get the beat like Jon. ... He's an amazing vocalist, composer, lyricist, poet, educator, mentor and friend."

Hendricks, 84, who Time Magazine once dubbed the "James Joyce of Jive," said he's "always been a poet" ever since childhood when he helped his father, a Baptist minister, find texts for his sermons. Calling Jarreau "my spiritual son," Hendricks recalled how the younger singer would come almost every night to hear him perform at the Trident club in Sausalito, Calif., and ask lots of questions.

Al "asked me ... what are the rules of scatting and how exactly do you scat? I've answered this question to many singers, but they're not hip enough to really ascertain the answer, but Al took it and ran. ... What I said was: `Well you know the melody, sing the chords, it's that simple?" Hendricks then reprised his performance from last September's "Higher Ground" hurricane relief concert organized by Wynton Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center, performing the ballad "This Love of Mine" and his protest song "Tell Me the Truth," whose lyrics written in the early '70s still sound relevant today.

The gala also included performances by faculty members and students and a monologue by comedian Bill Cosby. Other Beacon Awards, recognizing jazz musicians who "have uniquely enriched the nation's musical heritage," were given to drummer Roy Haynes, who has performed with jazz stars from Charlie Parker to Chick Corea, and bebop pianist Barry Harris, who has been involved in jazz education around the world. CBS newsman Ed Bradley, who is marking his 25th anniversary as a "60 Minutes" correspondent, received a Beacon Award for his jazz advocacy work.

Harris, in accepting his award, sounded a bittersweet note about jazz getting less respect at home than abroad, taking a swipe at the Recording Academy for holding a separate Grammy Salute to Jazz on Feb. 3 in a small Hollywood theater, several days before the main Grammy awards ceremony. At the salute, pianists Harris, Hank Jones and Oscar Peterson were presented the academy's President's Merit Award.

"It's not right for an artist as recognized as Oscar Peterson ... (who) came in a wheelchair, and they have to go to this little jive theater," said Harris. "It's disgraceful. They didn't mention us on the big Grammys and let us inside. ... They shunted us to the side."

Posted by acapnews at March 2, 2006 12:22 AM