A Little Bit of Ella (Cristal Records)
Released January 8, 2016
Prix du Jazz Vocal de l’Académie du Jazz 2016
We must be delighted that this album finally appears in the light of day after a few years of an inexplicable purgatory… It is only richer and more precious, insofar as it has become a double tribute, to Ella of course, but also, to the great Tommy Flanagan, who disappeared in 2001, and who was the most faithful and the last regular collaborator of the irresistible “First Lady”.
Michele Hendricks, born to a virtuoso father of “scat” and “vocalize” styles who put her on stage as a child, is one of the only artists authorized to sign this tribute. Firstly because she knows all the secrets of jazz singing in depth for having practiced it a lot, alongside some leading musicians, from Stan Getz and Art Blakey to Herbie Hancock and various groups led by Jon Hendricks , his father. Secondly because in some respects she is one of the only heirs to Ella Fitzgerald, in the diversity of her talents.
1. Sweet Georgia Brown (Bernie/Pinkard, Casey) 5:24
2. How High The Moon (Morgan Lewis/Nancy Hamilton) featuring: Jon Hendricks 7:03
3. Love For Sale (Cole Porter) 5:38
4. It Don’t Mean A Thing (Duke Ellington) 5:38
5. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (Duke Ellington) 5:27
6. Oh Lady Be Good (Georges & Ira Gershwin) 6:07
7. Our Love Is Here To Stay (Georges & Ira Gershwin) 6:25
8. A Little Bit Of Ella (Now and Then) (Michele Hendricks) 5:17
9. Airmail Special (Charlie Christian) 4:15
10. Everytime We Say Goodbye (Cole Porter) 5:00
11. Sweet Georgia Brown (Extended Version) 7:15
Michele Hendricks: vocals
Tommy Flanagan: piano
Peter Washington: bass
Lewis Nash: drums
Brian Lynch: trumpet
Robin Eubanks: trombone
David “Fathead” Newman: tenor saxophone
Jon Hendricks: vocals (2)
Recorded January 7 – 8, 1998 in New York
Engineer: Pierre Bornard
Photography by Simon Noizat
Michele Hendricks began as part of her father’s group, Jon, one of the creators of “vocalese”, mostly poetic texts on the themes that made the history of jazz. She started a solo career – she made two or three albums – but stopped to become a teacher and moving to France. It was possible to meet her until last year at the festival of Crest Jazz Vocal (at the Drôme) where she was responsible for internships. From time to time she would go up on stage to offer the most ecstatic audiences the art of scat art.
She went back on stage to resume the career a little put aside. She enjoys the edition of this album, “A little bit of Ella (now and then) – title of the only one of its compositions that is part of it – to start a tour. An album whose recording dates started fifteen years before and which, for undefined reasons, was unpublished. It records Michele’s meeting with Tommy Flanagan (deceased in 2001), pianist of Ella Fitzgerald for many years, pianist of the shadows, but also one of the great musicians of the scene of Detroit and who participated in the revival of jazz of the 1950s. His trio was composed of young musicians – at that time – Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums, on mostly themes, by Brian Lynch on trumpet, Robin Eubanks on trombone plus two surprised guests, dad Jon on “How High the Moon” and Davis “Fathead” Newman on the tenor saxophone, one of those you can’t never forget (died in 2009). Two ghosts haunt this album, two ghosts in good shape.
Michele takes the standards dear to Ella while dynamiting them by borrowing reggae – and if the radio programmers leave an ear on this “Sweet Georgia Brown” who opens and closes the album, they will make a huge and deserved success -, to the rhythms of calypso while staying close to current jazz. You have to hear Robin Eubanks solo to realize it. The duo with dad – Jon – is always punctuated with laughter, the dual is not really taken seriously. Even if the scat is played seriously. It’s an enchantment. Let’s say it, Michele is less comfortable on ballads like this mysterious “Every time we say goodbye”, like Ella. This theme should be part of the tribute…
A music played with a communicative joy, a raw swing that is fun to hear, a set up just for one of these albums that can open the day.