Interview de Michele Hendricks

Continuons notre petit tour du monde du SCAT dans le cadre du « mois du vocal » sur le blog. Artiste américaine installée en France depuis de nombreuses années, Michele Hendricks perpétue avec un immense talent, la tradition familiale (Son père Jon est un grand scatteur, fondateur du trio vocal « Lambert, Hendricks & Ross »). Elle répond aux questions de Docteur Jazz…

Une petite bio de Michele :

Michele HENDRICKS, chanteuse Américaine, auteur-compositeur, monte sur scène à huit ans avec son père Jon HENDRICKS, lui-même chanteur, parolier et fondateur du fameux trio vocal Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Dès l’âge de quinze ans, Michele tourne régulièrement en Europe avec son père, jusqu’à la fin de ses études de danse et de théâtre à Londres. Elle poursuit des études musicales à San Francisco, avant de revenir à New York, dont elle est originaire, pour deux ans durant lesquels elle travaille avec Buddy Rich et Stan Getz.

Michele retourne ensuite à San Francisco pour chanter dans le spectacle de Jon HENDRICKS “Evolution of the Blues”, qui reste six ans à l’affiche. Elle monte ensuite son propre groupe, avec lequel elle travaille dans la region.

Elle rejoint son père quand il forme son nouveau groupe “Jon HENDRICKS & Co”. Ils enregistrent l’album “Love”, nominé pour les Grammy Awards, et pour lequel Michele a fait les arrangements.

Michele quitte finalement le groupe pour entamer une carrière en solo, et chante aux USA, en Europe et au Japon. Elle a chanté aux festivals de New Orleans, New York JVC, Wichita, Monterey, Newport, Copenhague, Francfort, Ljubljana, Helsinki, Northsea (La Haye), Stockholm, Oslo, Pori, Umbria, Lugano, Mount Fuji, Tokyo, Osaka, Marciac, Vienne, Orléans, Vannes, Munster, Paris (Halle That Jazz) avec Herbie Hancock pour son projet Gershwin’s world, Madagascar…

Elle a également participé à de nombreux shows télé aux USA et en Europe.

DJ : Hi Michele, can you tell us witch are your main influences ?

MH : My father, obviously, for several reasons:

One, he had a saying when people asked him for lessons. « Listen! » He didn’t read music. He couldn’t tell you the names of the chords in a song, but he could scat over any chord changes like a sax player. 

Two, working with him was the greatest ear training I ever had. I was the only one in the group who could read music, so everything was learned totally by ear. We had no charts. Dad would give me a cassette of the original instrumental of a song he wanted us to do, and say, « Here, find 4 parts. » So I would listen 10 million times and sing each voice; soprano, tenor & bass. (I was alto) along with the original recording as a playback, onto another cassette. Everyone would listen and memorize their part. All those years listening and memorizing, solos & backgrounds, of all that repertoire, (Basie, Ellington, Horace Silver, The Jazz Messengers, etc.) developed my ears and taught me how to improvise. To this day, I advise all my students to memorize sax solos to get a good scat vocabulary. 

Three, what a showman he was! Audiences loved him! The importance of stage presence was a great lesson. Thank you, dad!

Another major influence for me was Bobby McFerrin. I met him at a jam session in San Francisco and thought, « Whoa! Who is THIS guy? » I introduced myself and discovered we were neighbors. He had just moved to town from Salt Lake City. This was before anybody knew who he was. But whenever he had a gig, I told everybody who’d listen to come check him out! I told dad about this amazing singer I had met, and when we needed to suddenly replace my brother in the group, Jon Hendricks & Family, we called Bobby. It was a Friday. We were in New York, due to open the following Tuesday for 5 days. Bobby flew in on the Saturday and the 2 of us spent the next 3 days in a room, me quickly making cassettes for him to learn and memorize. Remember, we had no charts and didn’t have the cassettes with us on tour! I was also frantically scribbling all the lyrics. We opened that Tuesday and Bobby had every note and word down pat! He learned, by ear, the entire repertoire in 3 days! He was, is, and always will be, as far as I’m concerned, one of the greatest musical geniuses on the planet. He worked with us for about a year. The lessons I learned working with him were invaluable. He started singing a cappella when we had a gig for several nights with an awful pick up band and he told them to just lay out and he sang alone! He was the one that whispered in my ear, « Sing the chords ». Changed my scatting forever. One day, he had me sing a rhythmic riff he had written down and asked me if I recognized it. I said no, and he had me sing it again, several times. When I said that I still didn’t recognize it, he told me that I finished just about every phrase of scat with that very same rhythm! I couldn’t believe it. But sure enough, I soon realized that he was right! That’s when I became aware of the tantamount importance of rhythm in scatting. Thank you, Bobby!

And finally, Joao Gilberto, for a piece of advice he gave me that changed everything. I was living in Stan Getz’s house at the time when he and Joao were making The Best Of Both Worlds. (I was in a vocal group with Stan’s daughter, Beverly, and Buddy Rich’s daughter, Cathy). Joao would have me sing with him sometimes, and one day he stopped playing and said, « No, no, no, Michele. No, one, two, three, four. » And waving his arm around expansively, said, « Anywhere you like. » He was talking about phrasing. I was never the same. Thank you, Joao!

DJ : Can you tell us your best & worst memories ?

MH : Best: Seeing Ella live and her inviting dad to scat with her on How High The Moon, (a memory dad and I rend homage to on my CD, A Little Bit Of Ella), and getting to meet her afterwards. I was tongue-tied! 

Worst: Jon Hendricks & Company arriving at a gig where the organizer had no sound system! He didn’t understand why we couldn’t sing without mikes! Someone bought their home stereo system over, but it was such a crappy sound we did the gig with no sound system. Intimate, but lacking punch, to say the least! A disaster.

DJ : A word or simple phrase to define jazz ?

MH : Freedom !

DJ : If you were a jazz standard ?

MH : I’m Old-Fashioned

DJ : Have you some projects ?

MH : Next CD, a tribute to my father.

DJ : Thanks a lot Michele ! We hope we’ll have you on the annual SCAT’s masterclass in Angers soon !… Take care !


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