50 Years since it's conception - Jon Hendricks’ masterful lyricisation of the legendary Miles Davis/Gil Evans album, MILES AHEAD, received its world premiere in New York in February 2017.
In the presence of the master wordsmith himself, Miles Ahead was performed in full by the 23-strong choir the London Vocal Project, plus rhythm section, featuring special guest soloists Anita Wardell, Kevin Burke and Michele Hendricks - all of whom have a long and deep association with Jon and his music.
Following a sell-out European premiere at Kings Place, London in 2017, and an encore performance in 2018, LVP are currently working on a studio recording, and touring the project through Europe.
Propelled by the success of 'Sing a Song of Basie' - the seminal Lambert, Hendricks and Ross album, Jon Hendricks started work on his lyricisation of Miles Ahead almost fifty years ago. However it was only in 2012 - over forty years later - that he began to collaborate closely with London Vocal Project director Pete Churchill who, with the support of the choir, has now helped to bring his creative dream to life.
Every note of both Miles Davis' distinctive solos and Gil Evans' ground-breaking big-band writing has been meticulously re-scored for voices with Jon's words imbuing each track with a new narrative. As this process neared completion LVP began to immerse itself in the soundworld of Gil Evans, memorising the scores and capturing all the nuances of the original recording.
Exciting as the rehearsal process was, however, it started to become increasingly clear that Jon might never get to hear LVP sing his lifetime's work due to the geographical distance between them. This was when Pete decided to contact Quincy Jones - a lifelong friend of Jon Hendricks - and ask for his help. It is through Quincy's generosity and the support of the Jazz Foundation of America that LVP have been able to bring Miles Ahead home to New York to be performed in the presence of its creator, the great Jon Hendricks. The project Jon began almost fifty years ago will finally be complete.
The London premiere took place to a sold out Kings Place in May 2017. LVP have been recording the work for future release.
ABOUT JON HENDRICKS
Jon Hendricks (born September 16, 1921) is an American jazz lyricist and singer who is considered to be one of the Godfathers of vocalese. This, the art of writing lyrics to existing instrumental solos, serves to create a new narrative for the work - whilst retaining the integrity of the original music. No one writes hipper, wittier, or more touching words than Jon Hendricks.
Jon is also considered one of the best practitioners of scat singing - vocal jazz soloing in the manner of an instrumentalist. He credits his skill in this respect to the influence of Art Tatum - with whom he performed as a young man.
In 1957 he teamed up with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross to form the legendary vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. With Jon as lyricist, the trio perfected the art of vocalese and took it around the world. They were voted “Number One Vocal Group in the World” five years in a row by Melody Maker magazine.
For his work as a lyricist, the jazz critic and historian Leonard Feather called him the "Poet Laureate of Jazz", while Time Magazine has dubbed him the "James Joyce of Jive". Al Jarreau insists that "pound-for-pound (he is) the best jazz singer on the planet - maybe that's ever been".
ABOUT THE LONDON VOCAL PROJECT
The London Vocal Project is one of the UK’s leading contemporary vocal ensembles, specialising in jazz and groove music. One of their first major collaborations was with Bobby McFerrin in the London concert of the music from his VOCAbuLarieS album. Since then LVP have continued to work on many other challenging projects - recently recording a highly acclaimed album of poetry settings with Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone. They are thrilled to be working on Jon Hendricks' Miles Ahead - an important and historic contribution to vocal jazz.
ABOUT PETE CHURCHILL
Originally trained in Canada, Pete has been based in the U.K. since 1985. Now Professor of Jazz Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Pete was awarded the 2007 Parliamentary Award for services to Jazz Education.
In addition to his role as a Jazz Educator, Pete works extensively as a singer, pianist, conductor, composer, arranger and song-writer - including a year and a half as a West End Musical Director.
He has also been a member of both Kenny Wheeler's and Abdullah Ibrahim's vocal projects and was Mark Murphy’s U.K. accompanist for fifteen years. More recently, Pete conducted the 80th birthday tour of the Kenny Wheeler Big Band which culminated in the album, The Long Waiting.
Much of Pete’s spare time is now taken up with directing and writing for the London Vocal Project.